A Heritage of Power 3: Jay's Story 5:
Trials and Pain part 1 of 3

by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/F, M/M and M/Herm
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

Shi shivered internally. Jay was waking up, and she could already feel that this morning would be typical of those of the past four years. He was shifting, just little, but it was the restlessness of distress. She turned in bed, wrapping her arms around him and nuzzling his neck lightly. She hated that he had to go through this every day, both as his mate and as a healer. The benefits of his 'gift' were undeniable, but she had to wonder if it was really worth the curse that went with it.

She knew he wondered the same thing, sometimes. It was mornings like this that she could kick herself for ever encouraging him to go through with accepting it. Still, it had been his choice, and she as fairly sure that even without that encouragement, he would have gone ahead with it. He'd as much as said so, several times.

The last four years had taught them all just how accurately he had been taught by his family from the very beginning what it meant to be one of them. He had only been eight when those lessons had ended, but he still knew what was coming accurately enough to warn them what was happening and what was to come. Every time what he'd been taught turned out to be true, it strengthened his beliefs in the rest; in the things that made it difficult to be a Jedi.

Even with all that, he was determined to make Knight.

She had no doubts he would, without any special considerations. It was just who he was, and now he had enough raw talent to do just that.

Her mind was drawn back to the present and the tom in her arms when his claws pricked her skin and a low growl reverberated threw her.

"Shh, it's okay. I'm here." She murmured automatically, holding him and stroking his hair as she pressed her face against his neck. It was over, for today. There was that much to be grateful for. These battles were regular, but much less violent than the first.

He settled for a few minutes, still only half conscious but more aware of her than anything else as he wrapped his arms around her and snuggled close, the tension draining from him for the start of the day.

"Morning," Jay murmured with a nuzzle.

"Morning," she smiled, nuzzling him back and kissing him softly.

"Sleep well?" He purred softly, his hands moving along her body in a lover's caress.

"Mmm ... reasonably," she rumbled, kissing his neck and scratching some of his pleasure-points lightly and welcoming the way his body responded so easily and naturally to her. "You, at least for what you normally do?"

"Yes," he smiled and kissed her firmly. "Feel ready for your Trials?" He murmured,

"Yes," she nodded, returning the kiss. "Just a few more weeks and I'll be finding out what they've got scheduled for my solo. Think you'll be okay, if Fen's off on a mission then?"

"I'll be fine," he assured her. "I won't be completely alone."

"All right," she murmured, nuzzling him lightly, licking his neck suggestively. "Mmm ... so, think you're awake enough to work off a little of that tension you've got?"

"Always, for you," he chuckled and ran his hands down her sides to squeeze her ass and pull her close.

"Mmm... horny kitty," she chuckled, rubbing herself against his groin and rolling on top of him to straddle his hips.

"It's morning," he grinned up at her and thrust up lightly, rubbing his hard cock against her mons. "It's you." He added throatily.

"Mmm ... flatterer," she rumbled, leaning down to kiss him hungrily, moaning into his mouth as she took his barbed length into her sex. It was one thing that had changed since he'd taken her so roughly not long before he'd accepted his family gift; he wasn't quite so stuck on always using the lube and she relished every day of it.

"Truth," he rumbled as his hands closed on her hips as he thrust into her, guiding her body with his to heighten their pleasure without pushing it too fast.

"Ooh... so good to me," she sighed happily, squeezing down around his length, pulling at the stiff barbs as the two of them made love.

Master Essani mentally looked around the Council, judging them for temperament and interest in the upcoming demonstration by her Padawan. She knew most were wondering when she would begin his formal Trials. He had as much training as any Padawan, and more skills than many Knights half again his age.

Today, however, was one of his projects, a rare joint one with Shi, which had them all very interested. Even Master Noloth was eager. Well, as eager as the Frilled Lizard was about anything.

The two new members of the Council, Masters Jamni and Dyba, were interested despite not knowing most of the back-story of the one presenting first hand. She would miss the old Wolves, but true to form, it was another Wolf pairing that took their place. Master Jamni, her fur still thick and lush in relative youth, and her mate, one of the few Togruta females in the Order.

Master Ursal was there as well, though she was sitting back, only there to watch her Padawan give the presentation. Even now, the two young Jedi were setting up, a full set of cream and light brown robes hung up in the center of the room for all to see.

What was unusual was what all the Masters could sense. The robes themselves seemed to glow with the same sort of aura a prospective Initiate had.

"*If everybody is ready?*" Essani asked politely once the two Padawans seemed to be prepared and all the Councilors were settled.

"Yes, Master Essani." Jay bowed to her and the Council politely.

"Then begin." Master Shan nodded to them.

"This is what we refer to as LSEA, or Light Side Enhanced Armor robes." Jay began simply. "It is a combination of two enchantments via Force-embedding. The first is its defensive properties. It is as strong as light body armor without any of the detriments. It can also turn a lightsaber or blaster as well as a lightsaber can."

"Additionally, it was treated to 'guide' the flow of the Force through the wearer properly, to help restore its normal balance and movement," Shivasta explained her addition. "The immediate practical benefit is that the wearer's body heals from minor wounds more quickly, and it has a calming effect similar to meditation, even in stressful situations such as combat."

"How difficult are these LSEA robes to make?" Master Bas'rath leaned forward, her dark multitude of braids moving with her.

"It depends on the ability and training of the one creating them." Jay told the Lioness politely. "Once we figured out the how of it, this set took us two months to enchant in our spare time. I expect that the time could be shorted to as little as a week for a Healer who is strong in the Force, has experience in creating them and can devote most of their time to it."

"Does the effectiveness decrease as they are damaged?" Master Charn asked thoughtfully.

"As armor, any gaps are unprotected." Jay admitted easily. "It is difficult to damage, relative to what most Jedi are used to."

"As for the healing effects," Shi added, "they didn't seem to work any more slowly, but we didn't damage them that badly in testing to this point. It should be noted that the healing effect isn't at the point of closing major wounds, but more healing the minor ones and helping the wearer to keep from tiring as quickly, even when being bruised and battered in combat. The armor qualities help keep most blows that could become major wounds at that level though."

"How difficult are they to repair?" Master Kareth asked, her thick multi-colored twitching in interest.

"They can't just be sewn up," Shivasta admitted, "but it seems that with a little careful repair work and meditation to 'repair' the force energy in them, they're as good as new, as long as material hasn't been replaced. Unfortunately, material replacing some that has been torn away has to be enhanced in order to have the same abilities. Cheaper and faster than making a new set, but not something you want to do in the field."

"How much of the robes must be intact to maintain the meditative effects?" Master Kareth continued.

"They should remain effective as long as roughly a quarter of the robes are left; enough to wear. The healing effects are somewhat less durable, I think about half of it would need to be remaining," Shi said after a few moments to think it through.

"The robes are effective separately in the healing and meditative qualities, and come in three parts." Jay continued. "They work best together, but effects are noticeable when only one part is worn."

"How noticeable is the effect, compared to when the full set is worn?" Master Noloth asked.

"Approximately one quarter effect with one piece, one half with two, full effect with all three." He explained.

"Impressive," the Lizard observed. "Is this a project that will be reproducible, or is it another of your unique devices?" He asked the young tom, most of the Council well-aware of his numerous previous projects that couldn't be reproduced by any known means.

"With the knowledge of how, it is reproducible by anyone strong enough to make Knight, and likely some others." He inclined his head slightly. "That is why it has taken four years to create."

"For the armor properties, or the rest as well?" Master Ursal asked, looking at her Padawan.

"The entire project, though the creator does require some training in how to heal another. Not a true Healer's training, however," Shivasta explained. "We found ways to simplify the process without sacrificing capability."

"We have also learned that instilling only the armor or healing capabilities does not significantly reduce production cost, or the energy required." Jay added.

"No," Shivasta agreed. "It is also a process that works best when started when the cloth is being produced, starting the enchantment during the weaving."

"That would certainly slow down the process," Master Surool observed.

"Yes, but it allows the Force infusion to be begun while the natural patterns of the material are still reasonably fresh," Shivasta explained.

"The Force patterns?" Master Surool clarified.

"Yes, Master Shan," she said, nodding to the twi'lek. "The more the material is processed, the less there to work with innately. Synthetic material can be used, but natural materials are much easier."

"Are there any more questions, before a demonstration begins?" Master Shan asked.

"*At least the first one without anybody wearing them,*" Essani warned Jay over their bond, knowing her Padawan far too well not to preempt his inclinations.

"*Yes, Master.*" He accepted her instructions and let one lightsaber slide into his hand from its place in his Glovatrix. He lit it with a single blade, taking the role of a traditional one.

Shi stepped aside, heedful that her Master did not want her in line with the strikes to come, no matter how unlikely they were to get through. She watched with as much interest as the gathered Masters. No matter how many times she'd seen it, watching a set of Jedi robes deflect lightsaber strike after strike as Jay moved through the common hits was breathtaking.

It made her feel a lot better to know that Fenrik was going to get one of the first sets soon.

After a few moments of practice, with nothing more than some light scorching of the cloth that was quickly brushed aside, Jay extinguished his blade, and the Council was clearly impressed.

"Do you plan any additional demonstrations here?" Master Shan asked. Jay could feel something about Shivasta's manner shift as she looked at the Doberman, more curious about something, though she didn't betray the reaction externally.

"Would you like to see something we haven't shown?" Jay asked politely.

"If you are willing, we would like the opportunity to have Artisan Shen'ri study them," Master Surool said. "Your demonstration and report have been most interesting, but his opinions would be appreciated as well."

"Of course, Master Surool." Jay bowed his head slightly. "He is welcome to study them."

"Then I believe we can save any further demonstrations for after that," the pink-skinned twi'lek said easily, his lekku shifting to suggest he was satisfied.

"Though we do look forward to them," Master Noloth said, the closest to praise either of the Padawans could remember hearing from him in a long, long time. "This is an interesting development, though one we'd like to keep quiet until we are ready."

"Yes, Master." Jay said easily, having kept it fairly quiet for four years already.

"Then you are dismissed." Master Shan ended the meeting even as the Masters were talking about it quickly and quietly before the Padawans took their leave after bowing to the assembly.

"So what caught your attention when Surool asked if we were done?" Jay asked as they sat down to dinner in one of the dinning halls.

"It wasn't that," Shivasta said, shaking her head. "It was at the end of the demonstration, I just couldn't place it exactly until then. Master Shan's reaction to the demonstration was... unusual. He was impressed, but he seemed to be concerned about something too. Just not sure what it was."

"They try to shelve this one like the rest, and I will leave the Order." He shook his head, not angry so much as resigned.

"I don't think they're going to try that, Jay," Shivasta smiled, leaning over to nuzzle him lightly. "I think he was more worried about how they could keep the news from getting out than anything else. A couple of them seemed to feel like that."

"I hope you're right, and it's not going to repeat history." He said softly, only a little regretful he'd jumped to the worst possible conclusion. "Guess I still haven't accepted the constant loss of advancements around here."

"I know," she murmured, kissing his cheek softly. "Don't worry... I don't think they want to bury it. It's too valuable to all of us."

"Something made them burry it a half-dozen times that I know about." He pointed out with a bit of a shrug. "The more I learn about things here, the more it creeps me out. It's just not right to put politics above the lives of so many."

"Yeah, but this is a different council, and different circumstances," she pointed out. "We'll have the set for Fenrik we've made already... and we can make others, even if they don't know about it," she said soothingly.

"I know," he smiled slightly. "It just riles me sometimes; thinking about how much further along the tech could be if it wasn't buried so regularly."

"The Republic's worse about it than the Jedi," she nodded with a sigh. "But you're changing that, slowly. More of the corp's are paying attention to inventions from all sorts of folk, even if it is just faster hyperdrives and such."

"True," he admitted, though that he could do that still confused the hell out of him. "It means they might just have a prayer of surviving the next unfriendly encounter."

"Unless it's somebody who really, really works differently," Shivasta nodded. "Though I've got to admit, even when the tech was increasing, the Republic doesn't really handle invasions well when they start."

"Largely because there isn't enough of a military to protect the space they claim against that kind of force. There just isn't the need to warrant the expenditure. It would be a different story if they faced it once or twice a generation, or more." He nodded.

"And the time they did run into that, it nearly crushed the Jedi and Republic alike," Shivasta nodded with a shiver. "Of course, the fact the last invasion of the three was led by most of the Republic's soldiers from the second didn't help."

"It's not a normal kind of invasion though. That's more like a rebellion." He said thoughtfully between bites. "I meant it more along the lines of what both our people knew. If there wasn't a major state of war, it was just the lull in the storm and everyone knew the next big one couldn't be more than a decade or two away. Someone could be a soldier in one war, a field commander in the next, a general in the third and see a fourth and sometimes even fifth before they die."

"Yeah," Shi nodded. "If that. It's one hell of a difference from out here. Even after a couple generations haven't had to deal with it, my people are still all capable warriors. Here... if it weren't for the Jedi, I think the Hutts could take us if they wanted to."

"Nah, the Corps would never let them." He chuckled. "Never underestimate their power."

"I meant without anybody but the Republic's forces," Shivasta chuckled. "Let's face it, if the Hutts snapped their fingers, about a quarter of Coruscant's senators would probably turn tail and run back to the ones who own 'em."

"I don't think anyone with a clue would deny it either." Jay shook his head with a chuckle of his own, though his distaste for that truth was clear as well. "I don't think many of them aren't owned by one special interest or another."

"Well, I don't know about your people, but I'm afraid I can't honestly say mine are immune," Shivasta admitted with a sigh. "There's no proof, but I have a feeling some of the clan leaders are being bribed by the Republic to be 'reasonable.' Not really bribes, but more the sort of promises that won't really hurt the clan, and they'll obviously favor the leader too. It's hard to fault them for it... but I can see why the Stormwardens and their allies think of them as traitors."

"Politicians are the same everywhere," he said softly. "Main thing that's kept most of ours honest recently is lack of opportunity. It's kind of hard to become corrupt when everyone is watching, and politics is more military than civilian. I understand it's very different on Aristal, where there are a few billion people and a lot of infrastructure."

"The more government there is, the easier it is for somebody to grease palms," Shi nodded. "Honestly, makes me glad Jedi aren't allowed to play politics on a large scale. I can't imagine having to deal with that sort of environment every day without getting frustrated enough to start bending all the wrong rules."

"Like we don't anyway," he chuckled low in his throat before drinking. "Jedi only follow rules when it's convenient."

"Those are the right rules," Shi smirked, sipping her juice and rolling her shoulder with a bit of a groan. "I meant the ones that say 'no fair telling the Senator where he can stick his bribe and then making him put it there in front of the Senate.'"

Jay couldn't help but snicker, far too amused by the mental image. "You are a mean, mean girl, Shi." He grinned at her.

"Please, like you didn't think the Neimoidian ambassador deserved it just as much as I did," she grinned back. "Besides, I think the Senator from Farffin would get a kick out of it if nobody else did."

"As long as he wasn't hiding under his chair because there was a Jedi in the room." He smirked.

"I think he'd come out once he realized we weren't after him," Shi chuckled. "For that much at least. That, or thank the gods he didn't have to see the ambassador drop his robes to do it," she added, making a distasteful face.

"You have a point," he grimaced. "That's not pretty."

"Mmm ... c'mon, let's finish dinner and get ready for Fen to get home," she smiled. "I'm sure between the three of us we'll be able to come up with better mental images."

"And act most of them out," he grinned at her with a wink that was almost too suggestive for public.

"Mmm ... you are going to spoil us one of these days," Fenrik purred, nuzzling Jay lightly as the three of them relaxed in their quarters on the cruise they were taking for their tenth anniversary.

"Shh!" Shi scolded him with a giggle. "He might decide to listen to you if you're not careful!" She kissed the back of Jay's neck, snuggling up close to him. "Even if it is true."

"It's not like I have much else to do with my money," he chuckled and nuzzled them both in return. "Besides, I like spoiling you."

"Mmhm. So stop complaining," Shi giggled, reaching across Jay to scratch Fenrik's ears.

"Oh all right," the young Knight groused good-naturedly. "Mmm ... hard to believe it's almost been ten years."

"And very soon, all three of us will be Knights." Jay added with a nuzzle and grin, his excitement over his and Shi's upcoming Trials clear to his mates.

"And getting sent on our own missions, off half-way across the galaxy like I've been doing the past six months," Fenrik chuckled. "Though I guess they might let you two stick around here most of the time, given what you're usually up to."

"Mmm ... the perks of not being warriors," Shi chuckled, rubbing Fenrik's back. "Though you've spent a heck of a lot of time at the Temple for somebody who spent most of his training following his Masters across and outside the Republic."

"Only because of those months I spent doing it with Doruth while Tes was pregnant," the Panther smiled. "Guess I like the work, weird as that is."

"Nothing wrong with being a teacher," Jay chuckled softly and snuggled close. "Or being around your mates more often."

"Mmm ... not at all," Fenrik chuckled. "We should probably think about getting breakfast again," he rumbled. "Maybe without getting distracted this time."

"Like we did twice already?" Shivasta giggled.

"Something like that," the Panther chuckled.

"How about the honeymoon brunch for felines?" Jay rumbled suggestively. "With a little tseren on the side."

"Mmm ... I think it sounds wonderful," Shivasta grinned, kissing him as she rolled out of bed, stretching out her stiff body. "After I grab a shower. I think I smell more like you two than you do," she winked.

"As if that's a bad thing," Jay grinned and rolled to grab her around the hips to pull her back onto the bed and on top of both toms. "Munchies will be here when we're all clean, and smelling of their shampoo."

"Mmm ... and in the meantime?" Shi asked with a grin, kissing both her mates.

"We warm those stiff muscles of your up?" Jay offered with a mischievous grin.

"Sounds good to me," the Ice Walker grinned, straddling his hips as Fenrik ran his claws down her back teasingly.

"How come every time we help her do that, she always ends up being stiffer afterwards?" He asked Jay playfully.

"Because she tends to pass out from exhaustion when we're done." Jay grinned back and teased her nipples with his claws. "But right now, I'm in the mood to remind her what being used by a couple randy toms is like." He grinned and made a quick grab and roll to put her under him.

"Mmph!" Shi's grunt was turned into a submissive moan into Jay's mouth as he kissed her hungrily and Fenrik shifted to straddle her head.

"You take that end, I make sure she can't go screaming or anything?" The Panther asked with a lusty grin, pulling Jay up for a kiss of his own, groaning as Shi leaned up to lick his balls playfully.

"Works for me," Jay grinned at him and claimed another kiss from his tom even as he sank into Shi's body.

The two felines' rough tongues dueled as Fenrik slipped his barbed shaft into Shivasta's mouth. She suckled his length hungrily as Jay started thrusting his bare, barbed length into her eager, wet sex. A soft whimper of pain and pleasure escaped from around Fenrik's cock, and she reached up to hold his hips.

"How many times do you think we can make her come before she begs for mercy?" Jay licked his whiskers and shifted his hips a bit to rub against both her g-spot and clit, relishing how much she got off on it now that he could finally feel it for himself.

"Don't know... ooh... but I'm willing to bet it'll be lunch time by then," Fenrik grinned, reaching down to knead Shi's breasts roughly as Shi teased his barbs and tightened her sex around Jay's shaft.

"Or we can really torture her," he leveraged his weight to thrust into her harder. "And turn this into a brunch game. I seem to remember that tseren gives her an actual heat for desires."

Shi whimpered as Fenrik grinned.

"Mmm ... I think you're right," he purred, starting to thrust into her mouth lightly. "You thinking what I'm thinking?"

"Tie her up and draw this out all afternoon?"

"Mmm ... and feed her after she's tied up, of course," Fenrik winked.

"But of course," Jay chuckled before a deep groan interrupted the chatter, his balls tightening against his body.

"'nk oo!" Shivasta muttered almost irritatedly, around Fenrik's shaft, working to get him off too.

"Mmm ... think somebody doesn't like... ooh... being ignored," the Panther groaned, even as his mate's tongue teased his barbs and worked him near an orgasm that Jay was already enjoying.

"Like she ever does," Jay panted and caught Fenrik's mouth in a heated kiss while the Panther came.

Shi drank down Fenrik's seed, enjoying the feel of Jay's fluids pouring into her sex as the two felines made out above her.

"Mmm, so you get her nice a tussled up, I'll see to the food?" Jay rumbled suggestively.

"Will do," the Panther rumbled, giving him another kiss, then shifting off the bed to kiss Shi as she stretched out to be tied down, and Jay went to get their 'brunch.'

Jay smiled softly as the house lights went down on the ship's amphitheater. He couldn't express how thrilled he'd been when he found out the entertainment wasn't a bith band. Instead, it was a locally famous Amberin singer and the stories made into songs that she favored with her band, Rush.

After listening to the last three albums they had put out, they were soon what he favored too. Even the songs that he didn't have anything in common with touched him. He'd been insufferable for weeks, waiting for this night.

"*Now we know why you were so insistent on this cruise,*" Shivasta said silently, sitting next to him, Fenrik on the other side. All three of them were going to enjoy it fully, though they weren't quite as addicted as Jay was.

Still, not a one of them didn't approve.

"*Hay, bith bands are okay, but this is great music.*" He grinned and nuzzled her, a tremor of excitement passing threw his body as the first beats of the rock music rumbled through the amphitheater and the crowd.

"*Just imagine what he'll be like when his next birthday rolls around,*" Fenrik chuckled mentally to Shi, keeping the communication shielded.

"*Shh! He is hearing us if we're not careful now!*" She scolded him. "*Besides, I want to listen.*"

"*Yes'm,*" Fenrik smiled, settling back to listen to the music that had Jay so enthralled.

"*Well, at least we're not sitting with old fogies from Kuat this time.*" Jay commented silently as the three of them were shown to their table. He was more than a little grateful that the three others sitting at the table were not only closer to their age, but feline. One on her own and a pair that were at least comfortable with each other.

"*Well, you knew we wouldn't be able to beg off all of these,*" Shi pointed out with a mental chuckle, nodding politely to the horned Tigress across from her as she sat down.

"And besides," the Tigress chuckled softly, "you could have ended up sitting with some old fogies from Metellos instead. They'd make this little gathering look downright casual."

Jay jumped internally, though he kept the reaction from showing.

"There is always something worse." The Lioness a bit older than the triad chuckled. "I'm Terra."

"Naryn," her sister added easily.

"Shivasta," the Ice Walker said easily. "And Jay and Fenrik," she added, introducing her mates.

"I'm Sharaan," the horned Tigress smiled. "Pleasure to meet you three."

"Have we met before?" Fenrik asked Sharaan curiously, cocking his head slightly. "I think I recognize you from somewhere."

"I do business around most of the galaxy," shi chuckled. "Mostly trading with the Temple on Coruscant. Might have been during one of my visits there."

"Probably," the Panther chuckled.

"So what are you on board for?" Terra asked easily.

"Anniversary," Fenrik smiled easily. "And getting off Coruscant for leisure rather than business."

"Mmm ... I know that feeling too well," Sharaan chuckled. "Of course, I imagine most of us have that motive here."

"What's your business?" Naryn asked the triad, even more curious than her sister.

"Jedi," Shivasta answered easily. "Fenrik was Knighted a few years back; Jay and I are about ready to start our final tests."

The Lionesses blinked in tandem.

"I didn't think Jedi had mates." Terra said curiously.

"Neither did I," Sharaan said, raising an eyebrow. "At least not as young as you three are."

"Extenuating circumstances," Fenrik chuckled. "It's complicated, but they've accepted it."

"Like they had much of a choice." Jay smirked slightly as the conversation paused for the appetizers to be served.

"So do you share?" Naryn asked Shi politely.

"*You guys interested?*" Shivasta asked the others mentally.

"*No,*" Jay replied silently, his disinterest in the female of any species still solidly intact despite his physical maturity.

"*Not particularly,*" Fenrik agreed. "*They're attractive, but not really interested.*"

"Afraid not," Shi said, smiling apologetically. "Not often, at least."

"A shame," Sharaan smiled knowingly as shi sipped hir drink. "But understandable. I wouldn't want to share either," shi winked.

"Particularly not now," Jay smiled faintly at hir. "Tenth anniversary only comes around once."

"Very true," shi nodded easily. "And not even that for many. Congratulations," shi smiled.

"Thank you," Jay inclined his head slightly.

"You hooked up young." Naryn murmured, more than a bit surprised given the tom's apparent ages.

"Yeah, we did," Shivasta admitted. "Though it's not like we did everything then that we do now, if you know what I mean."

The Lionesses nodded, though Jay only just held back a snicker for her selective phrasing of the truth.

"*Be good, Jay,*" Shi chuckled mentally.

"*I hardly want to encourage them.*" He shot back with a smirk.

"*And if you break out laughing, you'll do just that.*"

"So why are you here?" Fenrik asked the Lionesses curiously.

"Vacation," the pair grinned in unison. "We take one every year."

"Enjoying yourselves so far?" He asked, starting in on his dinner, making sure to mentally check his manners for the more formal surroundings.

"Very much," Terra grinned. "Particularly the concert last night. "Cameriin was fabulous."

"Wasn't she?" Jay finally got interested in the conversation, his entire body language picking up.

"*And so ends any chance of getting another word in,*" Fenrik chuckled in tolerant amusement.

"Padawan, come with me." Master Ursal spoke firmly as Shi got out of the skycab before her mates.

"Yes Master," Shivasta said easily, falling into step behind the larger Bear. She didn't betray the response, but she couldn't help but wonder what was happening, if something had gone wrong or if she'd forgotten something.

That question got bigger in her mind as she was led to the sparring chambers. She couldn't think of any reason to be here.

At least... not this soon after she'd gotten back.

She was led deeper in, towards the demonstration chamber, and it began to dawn on her what was probably happening.

"*Shi?*" Jay's mind brushed hers gently, drawn by the surprise in her mind to check on her. He was still awkward with telepathy, and fairly weak for a Jedi, but he had enough ability now to talk without a formal bond.

"*I think my Trials are starting,*" she explained. "*Can't talk right now, I'll be back in our quarters as soon as I can.*"

"*All right,*" he accepted the explanation without question and his mind retreated to it's usual level.

Shivasta tried to center herself, pushing the suddenness of the call aside. Fortunately, she had her lightsaber with her. She wished she hadn't had to tell Jay to wait, but she didn't want any chance that somebody would decide that it wasn't truly single-combat if she had him in the back of her mind.

At least the Trials were supposed to be an assessment of her skills, not whether she could defeat her opponent or not. She wouldn't be called if she wasn't ready either, by her Master's assessment.

She just couldn't help but think about the fact that she'd proven to be one of the lowest-ranked duelists throughout her entire career. Jay and Fenrik had both helped her move up from "the lowest-ranked," but even with that she didn't really have the skills necessary with her lightsaber.

She told herself to stop thinking that way. If Jay or Fenrik were leaving they'd have reamed her out for an hour for thinking that, to say nothing of what Master Ursal would probably say.

She took a moment to center herself properly. She was one of the lowest-ranked Padawans her age, yes, but she wasn't bad enough that anybody had suggested she needed more tutoring than she was already getting.

Besides, except for the totally pacifistic Jedi, the Healers were the ones who studied the use of the lightsaber least. That counted in her favor. She could see the Councilors gathered around the demonstration room as Master Ursal led her in.

It was just about time.

She wasn't surprised to see the Tiger step onto the mat, or that he was a full Knight. This wasn't a battle she was intended to win; it was simply to prove that she had the minimal skill level required of a Knight.

Winning a fight would come later, when she was taking the test of Defense. She focused on that, on at least achieving a draw, and assumed a position that would be fitting for before a duel.

"You do not claim the pacifist's right?" Master Shan asked with a raised eyebrow.

It was tempting, in a way. There would be no failing the test if they agreed to that 'out,' and it wouldn't be uncommon in the least for a Healer.

Just for her.

"No," she said evenly. "I am a Healer, it is true, but not one who refuses to fight when it is necessary."

"Very well," Master Shan inclined his head fractionally. "Begin."

She barely had time to register the order before she was under attack.

She brought her lightsaber up, the blade gleaming silver as it met the blue blade of her opponent. She focused on fighting defensively at first, knowing full well that it was her best skill. It didn't take a genius to figure out that the Tiger was holding back, keeping his skill down reasonably close to her level.

She wondered how long that was going to last. He would barely have to try to put her in her place, but that wasn't going to be news to anyone there. Very soon, she'd have to make an offensive move. This was her lightsaber Trial after all.

She started to shift to the offensive, her blade crackling against the blue one she faced. She could recognize elements in the Tiger's fighting style, vaguely similar to Fenrik's. That gave her something to work with, at least.

It wasn't nearly enough, but at least she wasn't just reacting to his actions. She focused and became a little more aggressive without costing her defense too much.

She had to remind herself not to call on the Force, or her other skills. In a duel, especially when it had not been agreed to, it would be the fastest way to demonstrate that she wasn't as far along as she needed to be.

As it was, she had to admit; she wasn't doing too badly. A few months ago and it would have been over by now. She could feel the approval from her Master. Not because she was winning. She wasn't. But because she was doing as well as would be expected for a Healer willing to fight. It wasn't saying much for real combat skills, but it was enough to pass.

Shi winced internally as one of her blows came dangerously close to the Tiger's robes. She was starting to lose her focus, getting away from her center.

She took a step back, dropping her saber into the yield position and lowering her eyes respectfully. She knew the Knight would accept the gesture; beyond tradition, it was clear that he was the victor on the off-chance he particularly cared.

"Accepted." Master Shan called out. "Begin."

The Tiger instantly got more serious. He knew already her primary moves and he clearly was pushing her hard with these first blows.

The first blow had almost made it past her defenses; since when had there been multiple rounds to this test?

She defended herself as well as she could, but was taken completely off-guard when the Knight thrust out his hand and hurled her off her feet. The clear breach of dueling protocol made it clear what was happening; they were mixing the defense Trial in with the proficiency one.

All right; if they were going to take advantage of her weakness with a lightsaber, she was going to take advantage of the training she'd had in how not to fight with one.

She rolled back to her feet, back on the defensive. Then, just as the Knight swung his own blade towards her, she twisted back out of the way, moving her 'saber out of the attack's way. The surprise in the Tiger's eyes was clear, even if it only lasted for a moment. That was enough for Shi.

While he was off balance, she shot her hand up beneath his arm, two stiff fingers striking the nerve bundle that controlled the limb, temporarily paralyzing it. Before she could press the advantage, another wave of the Force pushed her back, her lightsaber extinguishing as it flew from her single-handed grip.

Centering herself as quickly as she could, she reached out through the Force, rolling out of the way of the next attack. She saw the familiar pattern of the healthy Knight, though the flow of energy through his left arm was disrupted. That was going to be her chance.

While she was disarmed, the Tiger took the opportunity to summon the Force and undo the pinched nerves, restoring his mobility - just as the young Healer focused all her skill and energy on the same point. The Tiger's defenses and shields had been down; Shivasta wasn't known for being a particularly effective telepath, and a healer's skills weren't typically used for attack.

Except for one.

Taking advantage of the moment of laxity, Shivasta had worked her healing and life-energies through the Tiger's body. Not to soothe his slight fatigue or deal with any minor injuries he might be sporting, but to send a chaotic surge through the flow of the Force through his body as it tried to balance itself out again. She knew it had worked when the Knight groaned and clutched at his stomach, his body rebelling against uncontrolled adrenaline surges and hormones that combined to make him feel distinctly ill.

Keeping a close eye on him, she nodded as he extinguished his 'saber in surrender, not particularly able to end it with more dignity. She reached out to summon her 'saber to her hand, holstering it before she moved to make sure her malacia technique had worked the way it was supposed to, rather than being beyond his body's ability to deal with properly.

"Impressive, Padawan." Master Shan commended with a note of approval in his voice. "Do put him right now."

"I'd been planning on it, Master," she said simply, doing just that, her hands ghosting over pressure points and chakras as she stabilized the Force flowing through him. Malacia wasn't an easy technique, but most healers learned it for emergencies.

Ever since Shi had built her lightsaber, she'd worked to master it instead, and that included reversing its effects.

"Feeling better?" She asked the Tiger softly once she sensed that everything was back in place.

"Yes," he nodded and striated. "Most impressive, Padawan."

"Thank you," she said, standing and bowing respectfully. "I didn't have much choice, Knight Frall. You're easily as skilled as I'd heard."

Though, privately, she did think Fenrik would be able to beat him, given more experience.

"You are dismissed." Master Shan told her. "We will see you soon."

"Thank you," she said, bowing towards the Doberman and her Master, seated near him, before she left to return to her quarters.

That was about when it registered with her that, unless she'd done something wrong she didn't know about, she'd just passed her first two Trials.

She was practically buzzing inside as she left the demonstration room, getting ready to grab a quick shower before heading back. Instead, she noticed a small crowd gathering around one of the sparring chambers.

She moved up to see what was happening, and saw Fenrik and Jay practicing Jay's techniques. She chuckled and shook her head slightly as she moved to the front of the group to watch her mates.

Leave it to them to get back to 'saber practice just after getting home.

Still, it pointed out just how superior their skills were compared to hers ... or most of the Order their age. Fenrik was the better one when sparing and had more battle experience and it showed, but she expected Jay would actually be more dangerous in a real fight. He was unpredictable. Improvisation was in his very soul. Even on the sparing mat, he wouldn't be held to any set of moves, even when working in his own SWAT Form.

It was a testament to Fenrik's skills that he held his own in a Form he was still learning against the one who'd created it.

He'd definitely taken to it well, even fighting with a lightsaber set he hadn't turned to himself. The new form wasn't as artistic as some of the older ones, but it was definitely effective. In many ways it was more acrobatic and fast paced. Smooth and flowing without a single wasted muscle twitch or breath. A Form that's very purpose was to evolve with every fight. She couldn't imagine what it would be like to have to fight either of them seriously.

Well... all right, she could, but every time she thought about it the fight was over very, very quickly.

That was especially true after watching one of these bouts when the boys were going all out against each other. It was almost too easy to forget they were sparring and not trying to kill each other. Then she'd feel the emotions flowing from them both and it was impossible to forget. They both felt the calm joyfulness of centered exertion that was as much from sparring as it was from being so close to each other, so in synch with their mate. It wasn't that much different from what it felt like when they got seriously physical during sex without her.

Which usually came after a sparring match like this. She smiled and waited for the two of them to finish. It was probably going to be one heck of a night.

She was so entranced by watching the fast, powerful strikes and counter-strikes of the match she nearly missed the signal that ended it before they stepped back and rested their sabers before extinguishing them and bowing.

It was only then that she realized she'd been watching for the better part of an hour.

She hurried over to the entrance to the room, waiting for her mates to come out.

"You're smiling," Jay purred as they came even with her.

"Mmm ... I was watching you two at work, why wouldn't I be?" She asked, nuzzling his cheek. "Besides, I've got good news once we're back."

"It went well, then?" Jay grinned as they headed for their quarters, intending to shower there.

"What went well?" Fenrik glanced between them.

"Her first Trial." Jay supplied.

"So that's what Master Ursal dragged you off for," the Panther grinned. "How'd it go?"

"Lightsaber proficiency and self-defense tests," Shivasta chuckled ruefully. "About as well as expected, though I'm pretty sure I passed them. The self-defense Trial went easier than the proficiency one, once I knew what was happening."

"They didn't tell you?" Jay looked at her curiously.

"Not for sure," Shivasta said, shaking her head.

"Not too strange," Fenrik said easily. "It's up to whoever's running the Trial. Some Padawans do better in later Trials if they're not sure if they've passed most of them so far or not."

"I'm pretty sure I passed," Shi explained. "They didn't say if I did or not, but everybody felt like I had."

"That's one of the easiest Trials to train for to retake last too." Jay added with a nod as the door to their quarters opened for them. "Not being told to work on it's a pretty good sign you passed."

"Very true," she nodded. "Not that it isn't true even if I did pass. Master Shan actually asked if I planned on claiming pacifist status," she said, rubbing the back of her neck a little sheepishly.

"He could have been asking to see if you'd take the easy way out." Jay suggested.

"That's what I figured," she nodded. "Still, have to wonder if any of them really thought I would. Or that I should. Still held my own, at least," she smiled.

"Which is pretty good, considering you would have been up against someone better than you." Fenrik pointed out with a smile and pulled her into the bathroom. "Shower off and celebrate?"

"If you guys want," she smiled, kissing him lightly. "I can wait too, I know you both like it hotter."

"Oh, just leave your pendant on and I think we can make a happy medium." Jay purred and slid his arms around her to tease her breasts threw her robes.

"Mmm ... only fair to offer," she rumbled, shrugging out of her robes with a slight groan, muscles she didn't use often enough or well enough protesting the protracted sparring earlier and then standing still for so long just afterwards. "So, am I going to be the only one naked in here?" She asked playfully, slipping into the shower.

Fenrik opened the door to his quarters, half-hoping that Jay and Shi wouldn't be there as he started packing for another mission. He was lucky they'd had the time for their vacation; at this rate, if they'd left a day later, he'd have been called off on another mission before he'd gone.

As it was, he was leaving just a couple days later, all of two weeks after he'd gotten back from the last one.

He wouldn't have minded if the missions mattered. But no; some Senator's aide who wasn't important enough to rate a bodyguard had gotten the bright idea to request a Jedi for his trip to Clak'dor.

Clak'dor. The Bith homeworld.

Why the hell did he think he needed a bodyguard on a world where raising your voice in anger was considered dangerously unstable?

Fenrik took a deep breath, closing his eyes and centering himself. This wasn't becoming of a Jedi Knight. His duty was to perform his missions, without complaint, save where the complaint was well-justified. This, unfortunately, was not such a case.

It was a waste of his time, to look at it, but that was as much pride and frustration speaking as actual belief. The Council knew what it was doing when it agreed to this mission, he would trust in them.

"Already?" Jay's voice held disappointment, sympathy and understanding all at once.

"Yeah," Fenrik said, nodding slightly. "Seems I'm up for bodyguard duty."

"Outer Rim again?" Shivasta asked him, stepping into the room behind Jay.

"Of course," the Panther half-chuckled, shaking his head. "On the plus side, the Senate's footing the bill for the breathers I'll need if anything ends up causing trouble on Clak'dor."

"Clak'dor?" Jay raised an eyebrow. "Who could possibly need a Jedi on Clak'dor?"

"No kidding," Shi said dubiously. "*I'd be qualified to handle the Chancellor's security there."

"I was just asking myself that same question," Fenrik said, smiling too-sweetly. "Maybe the Council thinks it's a way they can get me to take some time off and relax without telling me I can't go on missions anymore. Some Knights are stubborn that way, after all."

"Might also be something up we don't know about," Shivasta granted, moving to hug the Panther from behind. "Just don't get bored to death on us, 'kay?"

"Yeah," Jay nuzzled him. "Maybe put in for a class or two after this. You haven't been around for months."

"Way ahead of you," Fenrik chuckled. "Finally managed to get out of the beginner's lightsaber courses too. They're going to let me take over that meditative class I've been shooting for. Master Krys D'nely is heading home for a while, so I'll be taking over for him until another of the Masters volunteers."

"Very cool," Jay hugged him. "It'll be good to have you around a bit more."

"Mmm ... you're not the only one thinking that," Fenrik purred, turning to hug both his mates.

"Just wait, they'll get you out of field work yet," Shi giggled, nuzzling the Panther's neck.

"Sure, after about forty years when I'm going grey," he smirked, returning the nuzzle.

"We'll see about that," Jay winked at him and kissed him solidly. "Any idea how long this one's going to last?"

"Should be back in time for your birthday," Fenrik smiled, returning the kiss.

"*And if I'm not,*" he told Shi mentally, "*your job to get him his present.*"

"*Will do,*" she promised him.

Jay finished his katas in the main sparing gym, aware of his now customary watcher studying him. He'd seen her about, a feline like none he'd seen elsewhere: a sandy-furred sabertooth. She'd been little more than a toddler when he'd first seen her watching him, now she was probably five or six and wearing robes.

"Sharo, isn't it?" He asked casually as he walked up to her.

"Yes sir," she said, standing up quickly and brushing off her robes, a little embarrassed that he'd noticed her.

"What's fascinating about me?" He asked gently and crouched to be on her eye level.

She ducked her head and blushed. "I like how you look. In the Force."

"Is that all?" Jay cocked his head a bit.

"You aren't like the others." She blushed brighter. "You're still fiery and unique. Still yourself."

"Everyone is unique, Sharo."

"Not many here seem to believe that. There's only one right way, only one way to be a good person." She struggled to explain something she felt more than knew and had too many battles with her caretakers over already. "I want to be like you. I still want to be me, when all this is over."

"You really don't like it here, do you?" He said softly and brushed her cheek.

"I don't like fighting with them, but when they tell me what I am is wrong ...." she let it drift off, the understanding resonation from the young adult with her a welcome relief to most of her interactions.

"Maybe I can help." He said quietly. "My Master is on the Council, she might be able to get you into a program better suited to who you are, unless you are dead set on being a Jedi, like I am."

"Not really." Sharo shook her head a bit. "I mean, Jedi do good, they're respected, but I'd rather not have to fight my elders all the time than be a Jedi."

"Do you know where my quarters are?" Jay asked and got a shy nod. "If I haven't found you in a few days, come by. I can get focused on a project sometimes and loose track of time."

"All right, Padawan Clawson." She nodded seriously. "Thank you."

"You're welcome, Sharo." He smiled and ruffled her ears. "Try not to take the whole view on the Force thing too seriously. They're only teaching you what they believe is correct and for the best."

"I know," she nodded slightly. "It's why I haven't run away. They mean well, and I wouldn't be alive without them."

"I know," he smiled slightly, an understanding sadness in his eyes. "I know exactly what you mean."

"*Master, are you busy?*" Jay reached out to Essani, sure she wasn't in Council.

"*Nothing I can't put on hold for a little while,*" the kushiban replied easily. "*I'm in my quarters, if you'd rather talk face to face.*"

"*Thank you,*" he replied and headed to the familiar location. "*It's about one of the Initiates. She is troubled.*"

"*Sharo,*" Essani guessed, as he felt her attention focus on him more fully. "*The young Remok?*"

"*Yes. She spoke of wanting to run away. It is not the trouble most Initiates have. Her beliefs are very strongly ingrained and do not mesh well with what she is being taught.*"

"*She mentioned her discomfort before,*" Essani agreed with a slight mental sigh. "*Though I didn't know she was that disturbed. Her people's views on the Force are quite different. When you're here, I would like to speak to you about this.*"

Jay nodded and fell silent for the rest of the walk, and came inside when the door to her quarters opened for him without question. He found his Master waiting for him, sitting at her desk with a well-organized stack of papers waiting for when she was done.

"Take a seat," she offered him easily. "How serious do you think she was about wanting to leave?"

He had to think about that for a bit, the variables involved were impressive.

"I think she was very serious about wanting to not have to fight her teachers to remain true to herself." He said softly, understanding a little too well. "She said the reason she hasn't run away is because you mean well, and you saved her life. It won't last past the first time she realizes she has an option outside the Temple."

"Do you think it would be wise to present such an option?" Essani asked him, her tone and fur neutral about the subject.

"Yes," he nodded, his manner more serious than usual. "She wants to be a good person; she still respects Jedi for what we do and that we mean for the best. She is in very little danger of going Dark out of resentment or natural temperament from what I've seen of her. Give her a way to learn to use to gifts without the theology she can't accept and she's unlikely to come to resent us. She may well be willing to work with us."

"Do you have any impression of what sort of path might be more amenable to her?" She asked him.

"Honestly, no." He admitted. "I haven't asked. Do you want me to?"

"If you have the chance, it would be a good idea," she nodded. "I have my own impressions, but I'm interested in yours. You're going to have to start learning to make those decisions soon."

"I'm sure I'll get a chance," he nodded slightly. "She seems to seek me out to watch often enough. I just finally decided to ask her about it."

"She's been watching you for some time," Essani agreed. "I wouldn't be surprised to find out that all your private practices outside have a hidden audience."

"I know they have, but she's hidden herself, so I left her to her seclusion." He smiled slightly. "This time she sat in the gym and watched like any other spectator, she was just watching a lot harder than most do."

"If I didn't know it was because you feel more natural to her, I'd think you had an admirer," Essani chuckled. "It's unfortunate she's taking so poorly to her training; she's holding to the Remok culture and philosophy much more strongly than the other Remok students are."

Jay cocked his head, considering his Master as he worked threw that bit of information. "Given her age, there aren't going to be that many reasons for it." He said softly. "Not many more than I would have, if you'd gotten me before I learned how to separate how things work 'here' from 'there' and act accordingly. Has anyone asked her why she cares so much about it, without being irritated at the time?"

"I'm not sure," Essani admitted. "Most of the instructors have seen her as being no different from some students we've had before that didn't see a difference. I thought the same, until I did a little research. That might be something to find out, though I'm not sure she'll be able to put words to it."

Jay shook his head. "She doesn't need to. I know what to listen for, if it's what I think might be going on. Master ... at two years there is very little in the universe you care about. She might be trying to hold onto something she's not ready to give up and this is all she's got to hold on too, not what actually matters to her. I think it may be the symptom, not the cause. What she's said ... it's very much like what I still do on bad days. She's just not dead set on being a Jedi to compensate for it."

"If you can find out Jay, we'd appreciate it very much," Essani said seriously. "You're right that it's very, very unusual."

"I will try," he agreed just as seriously. "She's got a good heart and she's bright. In or out of the Order, she has real potential to help people."

"That she does," Essani nodded. "And even if it's not with the Order, we don't intend to see that potential lost."

Essani came out of her meditation as she heard the door to her room open, her eyes opening as Jay walked in.

"Any luck?" She asked him, fairly sure he was going to be talking about Sharo.

"Yes, Master." He nodded, his manner more serious than usual as he sat down. "I think I'm right about her too. Is now an okay time to talk?"

"Yes," she said easily. "What are your impressions of her?"

"She needs grief counseling, badly." He said softly. "Did you know she saw her mother, her only living relative, tortured to death?"

"No," Essani said, her fur going a dark grey. "All we were aware of is that she was an orphan, like the other Remok students."

"Her mother was a Healer; someone's whose Force-aura is white, like a Jedi's. Among her kind, it's considered a great sacrifice to be dedicated to life to the point where you can't hunt for yourself. It's one that her mother did not want her to follow. It's pretty jumbled after that, but I'm sure that what she's holding onto isn't her culture so much as her mother's wish for her, to not have a white aura. Something that she is told she should have as a Jedi. She doesn't object to the path Jedi take, she just wants to be what her mother wanted for her; to be a warrior and provider.

"She needs to honor her mother, memories from her first year of life. Come to an understanding of it, her mother's death and what that wish really means. She may well make a fine Jedi. She may not. What she needs now is to deal with what happened when she was an infant or we'll never find out."

"Understandably so," Essani nodded, making a note to tell the Masters in charge of the dealings with the Remok to make sure they find out what had happened to make their adoptees orphans. "If we'd known beforehand...." She shook her head. "Given her associations with healers, do you believe that a healer would be an appropriate choice to help her deal with this?"

"That I am less sure of." He admitted. "The mind-healers have the best training for it, but an important qualifier would also be a lack of contact, or at least negative contact, with Sharo before this. She's eager to please and willing to talk. She doesn't like to fight with her elders. It's a deep scar, but everything about her tells me she'll be relatively easy to work with when you take her past into consideration."

"What do you think of Master Ursal as a good candidate?" Essani asked. "She'll be done with Shivasta's training soon, and has a great deal of experience with healing body and mind alike."

Jay settled on the couch he was on to think about it, both pros and cons based on what Sharo had told and shown him and his own knowledge of the elder Bear.

"I think Sharo will like her, which makes her a good choice." He nodded; running the last of it threw his mind. "I've read the notes on Remok culture that we have, and it syncs with what Sharo has said and feels. It should be enough for Master Ursal to understand the basic culture. I've got a small notes file that covers some details that apply to Sharo, even if they aren't culture-wide."

"I'll speak with her about it then," Essani said. "Did you get any suggestions as to why her mother was killed?"

"Just enough to know I'm missing something." Jay shook his head a bit. "His Force-aura was dark and out of control. I get the feeling that it was an addict or something her mother was trying to help, but I'm not sure."

"Or a psychopath of some sort," Essani nodded, closing her eyes for a moment. "Few addicts would have tortured her. All right, I think we've made some breakthroughs. Thank you for your help, Jay."

"Thank you for listening, Master." He inclined his head deeply to her and stood. "She's a good kid."

"Yes, she is," Essani smiled. "That much I sensed. I suspect she may take well to her training after all, once we've had some time to work with her. Is there anything else you want to bring up?"

"No, Master." He smiled slightly. "I'll leave you to your papers."

"You're far too kind," she said dryly, her fur shifting a playful pink for a moment. "If you think it's a good idea, you might tell Sharo that we'll be finding her a new teacher who'll get along better with her soon."

"I will," he chuckled softly. "It should put her in a better mood until then. Have fun, Master." He added with a wink before leaving.

Essani chuckled, turning back to her paperwork and reaching up to pick up a small datapad. She considered the numbers and symbols along the list for a moment; Jay's assorted test scores and rankings. She scrolled to the bottom quickly, and started punching in her assessment, now finished.

"Recommend Trials commence at first possible opportunity," she typed. Setting it aside, she turned back to her more tedious paperwork, although in a better mood than she usually was for the work.

Essani watched the Council's last audience for the day leave, a Knight with a report on the deteriorating situation on Garos VIII. At least it seemed to be getting worse more slowly than it had been. Maybe there'd still be some time for them to keep it from coming to violence.

"*If there's no other normal business for us to deal with at the moment, I'd like address a more recent situation,*" she said, looking around the Councilors for signs of objection. "*It's regarding the Remok students, young Sharo in particular.*"

"Something has come up, other than what is in the reports?" Master Shan leaned forward in interest.

"*Yes,*" Essani nodded seriously. "*First, we have to tell the Jedi in charge of negotiating with the Remok to find out what happened to the parents of the children we adopt. It seems that many of Sharo's problems aren't stubbornness or a kit's trouble seeing the difference between light side and dark side, but the result of trauma connected to her mother's death.*"

"I will see to it that they do." Master Shan nodded. "How did you come by this idea?"

"*She has been watching Jay as he practices lately,*" Essani explained. "*He went to talk to her about it, and approached me with his concerns for her future with the Jedi. Later conversations brought up what happened to her mother, and the reason she is so resistant to the idea of following the Light exclusively. It seems her mother was a healer, and wanted her to have a more balanced training. Or, as Sharo understands it, not to have the aura of somebody who dedicated themselves entirely to the Light side of the Force. She's holding onto that as a sort of last request. Understandable, given that from what she describes one of her mother's patients tortured her to death.*"

"I see." He murmured slightly. "Any indication of who a good mind-healer would be for her to work with?"

"*Master Ursal,*" Essani said easily. "*For a healer she has a relatively mild aura. She also has the experience and, soon, the time to deal with a situation as delicate as this one is likely to be.*"

"She is certainly competent," Master Shan nodded in agreement. "Do you wish to see to it?"

"*It will be easiest,*" Essani agreed. "*I'll speak to her after Shivasta's next Trial is complete. Speaking of the Trials, I believe that Jay is ready to start taking his. You've all received my report on his progress, and given his performance with this problem, I feel he's fully qualified to start.*"

Master Shan nodded and looked around, pausing a little longer with Masters Noloth and T'qu'l, the two on the Council that had the greatest issues with Jay as a Jedi.

"Agreed, Master Essani." He said simply. "Do you have a suggestion to test him most effectively?"

"*The greatest obstacles he has to deal with are not matters of skills. You can see his scores and know he will easily pass any test of knowledge or skill we put to him.*" she said simply. "*He may be a weak telepath, but we all know that his other skills tend to make up for it. His greatest weakness, even after his training, is in judgment, and we all know that this is the field he's most likely to fall short on. I would propose that we bring him down here and blend his test of judgment with his self-defense Trial. Master Yamari, would you be willing to serve as his opponent for this?*" She asked, looking at the blue-furred Mouse.

"Yes," she nodded easily. "What kind of judgment do you want me to press for?"

"*His judgment for abilities to use, and his willingness to stand down,*" Essani said easily. "*I don't doubt that he will attempt to short out your lightsabers at least once, and that is a viable tactic for this Trial. Do you need to prepare yourself to be able to continue the test after that?*"

"I am prepared," she said easily. "I have been working with him long enough to know his tricks well."

"*Then I suggest that we move down to the demonstration room, I'll let him know to meet me there while we're on the way.*"

"Very well." Master Shan nodded and stood.

Essani and the rest of the Councilors followed the aged Doberman out of the Council Chambers and to the large turbolift that would carry them to the bottom of the Spire.

"*Jay,*" Essani said over their bond, "*are you up?*"

"*Yes, Master.*" He responded on reflex, acute pleasure and the presence of another mind touching his not quite kept off the open bond. "*Minute?*" He requested, though there wasn't going to be much of a choice in the matter.

"*Yes, Padawan,*" she said, shaking her head slightly as she shielded the link from the others. "*Meet me in the demonstration chambers when you're done.*"

She got an affirmative thought before pleasure shattered the coherent connection. He wouldn't be long, she was sure, but he did find the oddest times to 'play' with his lovers. If she didn't know that they were all dedicated to their studies and had test scores to prove it, she'd doubt they did much but pleasure each other.

"*He'll be there shortly after we are, probably,*" she told the Councilors easily.

Jay took a deep breath and settled himself. His body was still tingling from Shi's attentions, but it was the prospect of a battle that had his body keyed up and he was trying to calm down from. A demonstration chamber meant only one thing; he was going to give a show. He wasn't entirely sure why; he knew he wasn't scheduled for anything just now. It narrowed the possibilities down significantly, especially considering that he knew everybody there and they were all Councilors.

He bowed to them and waited to hear what was going to happen.

"Padawan Clawson," Master Shan said, "your Master has informed us that she believes you are ready to begin your Trials of Knighthood. Do you agree with this assessment?"

His surprise was clear to them all, but he collected himself quickly and considered it honestly, judging himself as best he could.

"Yes, Master Shan. I do."

Master Yamari stood and walked down into the demonstration chamber with him, her twin duel-bladed lightsabers at her sides.

"Given your obvious proficiency with the lightsaber, the Council has agreed to waive that particular test," Master Shan explained. "However, we still need you to prove your capacity for self-defense. Master Yamari has volunteered to serve as an opponent in this Trial."

He nodded and stepped back to the edge of the circle and relaxed into the starting position for the SWAT Form, his blacklight lightsabers lit and ready. A twinge in the back of his mind disagreed with the premise. He was better at defense than offence, but he was also notorious for fighting oddly in freestyle rounds. They could be testing a number of things.

Yamari relaxed into her own stance, her dark blue sabers igniting as she studied his stance. He knew she was better than he was, even though he'd taught her how to use the SWAT Form 'sabers, and that she knew virtually every tactic he had. He'd have to improvise if he was going to pass this against her.

Fortunately, that was something he was very good at. At the very least, she'd pay dearly for a victory.

"Begin," Master Shan called. Master Yamari practically flew towards him, her sabers flashing as she attacked.

It was his first look at her at full capability, and he began calculating even as he blocked and moved, seeking an opening to end the contest without sacrificing his defense against her 'sabers and the Force skills she wielded. They weren't easy to reach, and even less inclined to listen to him, but enough power would override loyalty, and he had that and much more.

Unfortunately, she wasn't giving him much time to work on it. She would start to move into one technique, then change to another at the last second, forcing him to put all his attention on blocking the new technique. Despite the sudden shifts, he couldn't help but notice that none of them detracted from the beauty of the dance she was doing already.

He was completely taken off-guard when she reached out with the Force, sending him staggering back. He kept his balance and both 'sabers in the end, and everyone there felt the Force in the entire area shift as Jay shifted mindsets from 'duel' to 'battle'. Things were about to get interesting as the young feline tapped into his creative, rules-breaking nature.

He came at her, giving in completely to the Force to run the physical end of things as his mind turned to every skill he had and every unexpected use of them not in the books.

She countered the offensive shift easily, using one blade defensively and the other to continue her offensive maneuvers. When that one finally gave in to his efforts and blinked out, she practically launched into the air, forming a graceful arc of blue fur and brown robes as she landed, safely out of reach, and reignited the blade. She reached out towards him, using the Force to take hold of one of his lightsabers and try to pull it out of his hand.

She was a bit surprised that he was ready for it, lashing back at her with a solid Force-blow to the chest even as he held on to his 'sabers tightly.

It was that moment that every Master in the room realized that he was up to something very, very new. The Force gathered around him, a draw that not even flight came close to, and he stepped sideways, his lightsabers in an odd position.

Even Master Shan drew a sharp breath when he finished the step on the other side the mat.

He wasn't where he wanted to be, but Jay took the stunned fraction of a second he got from the unprecedented move to try and yank Master Yamari's lightsabers from her hands and pull her feet out from under her.

The first worked; her lightsabers were pulled from her grip and were hooked to Jay's belt by a more delicate Force use, but he felt his attempt on her feet seem to ripple around her, her defenses prepared for a direct use of the Force by now.

"Be still," she told him, shifting to a defensive position and putting the weight of the Force behind her words. "This is over."

Jay's ears flattened and he shook his head, fighting the suggestion that didn't match with her body language.

She knew she hadn't bought herself much time; Jay was stronger willed than that, and it would have been a stretch even against somebody who wasn't Jedi trained. She did the only thing she could think to do right now that would work. She reached out and picked him up by the scruff, using the Force to provide just enough support she wouldn't hurt him as she lifted him bodily into the air.

The response was immediate.

Her mind was assaulted by a rapid series of commands. That she'd lost her grip and he was free. That she now had three opponents attacking. That she had her lightsabers back.

None of the suggestions had any real influence on her; no one of them particularly bothered her even. However, taken all at once, a flurry of telepathic activity that refused to be ignored, it was just enough to distract her grip. As Jay fell to the floor, she did manage to pull her lightsabers back to her with a rip of cloth as they came off his belt, igniting them and falling into a defensive stance, fully expecting that he'd be following them shortly.

Instead he surprised everyone by stepping back and into the classic 'match over' position.

Master Yamari dropped into the same position, inclining her head towards him slightly. It seemed he had learned his lesson about accepting a draw. He may have insisted it be on his own terms and on his feet, but he'd still done it, and that was what counted.

Not too long ago, she would have still been fighting him.

Essani reached out to Jay as the two extinguished their lightsabers.

"*You did well, Jay,*" she told him. "*You have passed your self-defense Trial, and the first Trial of judgment.*"

"*Thank you, Master.*" He inclined his head to her fractionally.

"Have you practiced that teleportation technique before, Padawan Clawson?" Master Noloth asked from where he was sitting, watching the young feline intently.

"No, Master Noloth." Jay answered easily. "It occurred to me during the battle."

"You might take care practicing it in the future," the Lizard told him. "It wouldn't do to have you accidentally place yourself in a wall."

"Yes, Master Noloth." He accepted the instruction without question.

"We may have questions about how you accomplished that later," Master Shan told him. "You may return to your quarters, if you wish. Well done, Padawan."

"Thank you, Master Shan." He bowed deeply to the Council and left, his body more than eager to get back to Shi and a nice long shower.

"Hey, Jay?" Shivasta's hands closed around her mate's shoulders as she got back from her shift in medical the next day, her thumbs rubbing his shoulders gently. "What's this I hear about you managing to surprise the entire Council yesterday?"

"I just did what I do," he chuckled and leaned back to nuzzle her. "I did a little improving with using Force-energy."

"You make it sound so simple," she chuckled, nuzzling his neck and moving her arms around to hug him. "So c'mon, details. I don't have many, if you haven't guessed. The Council's keeping it mostly under wraps."

"No doubt to keep people from trying it." He shook his head with a slightly amused sound. "I just teleported. Folded space so one step took me across the mat."

"You just teleported?" She asked, looking at him incredulously. "That's like saying you 'just' managed to jump yourself through hyperspace, Jay. What happened? It worked?"

"Sort of. I didn't end up where I intended to, but it was only a few feet off. Not bad for an idea I thought up the second before."

"Eesh." Shivasta shook her head, kissing his neck lightly. "You are gonna be careful if you do that again, right? I mean, if you stepped to the other side of the mat, I can only imagine what'd happen if somebody stepped in your way while you were doing that."

"It takes way too much effort to be used normally," Jay shook his head and reached up ruffle her hair. "Act of desperation stuff."

"Good," she murmured, scratching his chest lightly. "Not that I don't like it when you experiment, but I don't think it'd be all that fun if you ended up stepping through somebody."

"Probably not," he admitted. "More so for them than me, but it'd probably be messy."

"Or at least give me one heck of a weird job for the evening," she nodded. "So, you're officially taking your Trials now too?"

"Yap, I passed self-defense and the first round of judgment, and they waived lightsaber proficiency." He tipped his head back to kiss her.

"Mmm ... just wait, you'll end up making Knight faster than I do," she teased, kissing him back. "Unless I keep you too busy to focus on it," she winked.

"You try too hard and next time Essani won't shield it from the Council." He pointed out with a smirk.

"Mmm... well, I'm sure she didn't get too many details, or we would've heard about it by now," Shivasta giggled, still blushing a bit as she drew Jay up to his feet. "Mmm... well, you're not doing any of your trials now, so why don't we take advantage of it, hmm? I'm in a snuggly mood after medical today."

"You're not going to get any complaints from me," he chuckled and drew her close to him for a lingering kiss as he felt her body through her robes. "You know what you do to me." He added throatily.

"Mmm ... why don't you show me?" She asked with a seductive rumble, kissing him deeply and working her hands up under his robes.

He began to kiss down her neck, his hands teasing her nipples threw the layers of cloth.

"Mmm ... the things you do to me," she murmured throatily, working his robes off his shoulders and exploring the thick rusty fur that covered his body. Even after all these years, the heat difference between them was still a surprise.

She froze when he did, a quizzical look on her face when he sighed.

"We have got to work on this timing." Jay shook his head. "I have a Trial to attend."

She sighed, shaking her head with a playful pout.

"Well, at least I didn't have you in my mouth this time," she giggled. "Mmm ... I'll be waiting for you to get back," she winked. "Just don't let it throw you off."

"If I do, I'm not ready." He chuckled and kissed her as he put his robes back on. "I'll be back." He promised.

"Mmm ... hope it's soon," Shi smiled, slipping her robes off and going to grab a shower while Jay went for his Trial.

Knight Aren sighed mentally as the Pomeranian he was 'guarding' ranted on about the insufferable nature of the Bith and their insistence that their technology not be used for weapons. He had to wonder just what the idiot had been thinking coming out here and suggesting it. The last time Bith technology had been used as weapons... well, there was a reason the planet was a wasteland outside the domed cities.

He was just glad that they were heading home now. It wouldn't be long, and he could drop the Pom off at the Senate building and never have to deal with him again.

In the meantime, he was going to get a lot of practice filtering out annoying distractions.

The squeals of Gamorreans near the entrance drew his attention; they weren't entirely unheard of on Clak'dor, but there weren't common either.

Something about them didn't feel right. Not just feeling off, but feeling up to something.

It wasn't unusual to see them brandishing vibro-axes and blaster rifles. The green-skinned pig-men were loathe to turn over their weapons, and despite the "no active weapons" laws on Clak'dor, the reluctance of any of the local law enforcement to actually enforce them meant that anybody who didn't want to play nice didn't have to.

Seeing a Bith with them, leading some sort of repulsor-forklift ... that was more unusual, especially as they started making their way towards a shuttle whose pre-test preparations were just being completed by its short, sallow-skinned crew.

They looked at the approaching forces, their black eyes getting even wider if it was possible.

Fenrik watched them carefully, now fairly sure something was going on that wasn't legal. But he couldn't get involved until he had a good idea of what.

"Excuse me, I need to borrow your ship," the Bith with the Gamorreans told the technicians.

"What are you talking about?" They asked. "You can't just come in here and do this!" They were very clearly concerned, more about the guards than the Bith, but the Gamorreans were more focused on Fenrik and the few other outworlders in the hangar.

"I'm sorry, I don't have time to explain," the scientist said dismissively. "I don't want to resort to violence, but it is imperative that my project be allowed to continue."

"What project?" One of the Gamorreans looked at the Bith technician and snorted menacingly, convincing him to shut up. The flight techs started moving away from the ship, clearly willing to let the scientist do what he was going to rather than risk fighting the massive pig-men.

"I'm afraid that theft is not permitted." Fenrik said softly, his manner taking on the full authority of his Order and his training. This fight might be suicidal to most on this world, but it was a simple one for him.

"Restrain him," the scientist said, almost sharply, working to load his repulsor-forklift and its payload as the Gamorreans started moving towards the Jedi.

"What are you doing?" The Pomeranian asked him incredulously, looking from the Panther to the approaching pack of mercenaries.

"My duty." Knight Aren said simply and wasted no time in advancing on the Gamorreans, his lightsaber blazing white.

They snorted and squealed orders between each other, spreading out so he wouldn't be able to focus on more than one of them at a time. These weren't common thugs; they were clearly more experienced in how to fight against a Jedi.

He had to wonder just how much the Bith was paying them to do this though. Probably a significant amount.

They readied their blaster rifles, spread out far enough that Fenrik would have to choose with side to focus on if they all started firing at once.

He could handle it, but it wasn't going to be easy.

It also made his target clear: the forklift.

He called on the Force for speed and focused on getting past the guards and stopping whatever this was about.

Blaster bolts ripped through the air behind him as he dove around the mercenaries. The Bith scientist started pushing at the back of the platform, desperately trying to speed the process as he realized his guards weren't going to be enough now.

"Grab his companion!" The Bith shouted as Fenrik reached his location.

It was enough to get the Jedi's attention, but not enough to save the forklift, which fell to a Force-blow even as Fenrik turned to deal with the Gamorreans and protect his charge, who was doing the smartest thing yet: running for the Sharufa at full speed.

He made it there just as Fenrik barreled through the line of Gamorrean thugs, knocking a couple of them over as guard droids finally arrived in the hangar. With the Pom safe in a ship that nothing got into uninvited, Fenrik turned back towards the cause of the trouble and lifted the Bith bodily into the air while he kept his lightsaber ready to deal with the muscle.

Fortunately, they seemed less than thrilled with the idea of going up against the Jedi and droids at the same time.

"You don't understand!" The Bith scientist told him. "I have to complete the test!"

"If you have to steal a shuttle to do it, I doubt that." Fenrik countered and ghosted across the top of his mind to catch just what this 'test' was all about.

He caught images of Clak'dor's skies turning from a chemically-laden pint to a more natural color, the mutated life-forms dramatically returning to more benign, if not entirely normal, versions of themselves.

Glancing at the large object on the trashed forklift, he found the word to be used for it 'gene-bomb.'

Great; he'd been trying to reverse the planet's damage using the same sort of science-gone-wrong that had ruined it in the first place.

"Even if you're right, this is not the way to find out." Fenrik said calmly.

"All the tests show it will work!" He protested. "It works in all the simulations, it works in the lab, the others just won't believe it!"

"Thank you for your assistance, Jedi," one of the guard-droids said, moving to take the scientist while its counterparts kept the Gamorreans under guard. "He recently attempted to convince the Ecological Panel that his plan would work; they were unconvinced by his work, according to my files. Nobody expected he would attempt anything like this."

"If he'd spent his money on a shuttle and not guards, he would have gotten away with it too." Fenrik said simply and let the scientist down and into the droid's care. "I noticed when he tried to steal the shuttle."

"That would be because he was banned from leaving the city until review of his procedures was complete," the droid said. "Thank you for your assistance; you may be on your way, we'll deal with this."

Knight Aren nodded and turned to go back to the Sharufa. He had some misgivings about the situation, but he had nothing close to the knowledge required to make a better choice. He'd report it to the Council and let them figure it out. If the local Ecological Panel was being unfair, the Council had plenty of authority to pressure them into being reasonable.

He had to wonder if they'd had a feeling something like this was going to happen. It would do a lot for explaining just why they'd sent him here. It certainly wasn't because of his official mission.

"What did you think you were doing?!? I could've been killed!"

Ah, yes. The official reason he was here.

"Highly unlikely." Knight Aren informed him evenly and walked to the cockpit.

"Unlikely?!? Those weren't Bith, those were Gamorreans! They tear people like me apart for fun!"

Fenrik had to admit, he was finding it harder to blame them for it with every high-pitched word coming out of the functionary's mouth.

"So do ill-tempered Panthers." He pointed out, hoping it would shut him up.

"You can't talk to me like that, you...." Fenrik tuned the tirade out, finally reaching his gag limit and deciding to do something about it. He turned to face the Pomeranian, looking down into the beady eyes, glittering with righteous indignation.

"This was all too much excitement for you to deal with," he said, waving his hand just inside the Pom's field of vision to distract him and let the suggestion have a better chance of working. "You should go back to your quarters and lay down for a few hours."

"I-I'm going to go lay down," the bureaucrat told him, turning and marching off as though he was somehow being defiant. Fenrik rolled his eyes and walked up to the cockpit to start the takeoff procedures.

He would be so glad to get home after this.

"Mmm ... hope you have a good time tonight, Jay," Shi smiled, snuggling up against him in the back seat of the air-cab that was secretly taking them to the Kallarak Amphitheater, Rush's first major concert on Coruscant.

It had taken quite a bit of finagling to get good tickets before they were sold out, and even more to keep Jay from finding out about the concert before he couldn't get tickets on his own anymore, but she was hoping it'd be worth it. Only problem with the night so far was that Fenrik was still in transit from Clak'dor, though it wasn't the first time one of them had missed a birthday or anniversary. Wouldn't be the last either, she was sure.

"How could I not have a good time?" He purred, nuzzling her affectionately as the air cab set down outside the bustling Amphitheater. "You're here."

"Flatterer," Shi smirked, climbing out as the cab doors opened. "Come on," she said eagerly, helping Jay out. "Let's get there before the line to get in gets too long."

He nodded, following her without question. "Shi?" He finally took in where they were and blinked. "What have you got planned?"

"Mmm ... let's just say you're not the only one who can get good seats at concerts," she winked at him as they made their way to the quickly forming lines. She reached into a pocket of her nicer out-on-the-town clothes and pull out a disposable datapad to hand it to Jay.

"Rush?" He breathed and looked up and around, his heart pounding as it realized they were in the mid-thousands for seats -- damn nice for Jedi. "You and Fenrik are getting sneaky." He purred and nuzzled her.

"We try," she grinned, nuzzling him back. "I take it you approve?"

"Hell yes," he laughed easily as they got in line. "On both counts."

"Well, the 'sneaky' part it doesn't matter if you approve or not," she grinned. "We're going to be doing it either way. Took calling in a few favors to get a hold of these."

"I bet," Jay shook his head with a grin and kissed her solidly. "And a lot of sweet-talking the computers to not let me in on it."

"Actually, that just took buying them the old fashioned way," she winked. "And having somebody else do it for us. We actually got these -"

Whatever she was going to say was cut off by a blast that shook the Amphitheater to its very foundations, the entire building shaking dangerously as screams started inside.

The crowd near the edges started grabbing desperately for anything to hold on to that would keep them from falling into the great canyons between Coruscant's buildings. Others, farther from the edge, started to panic as the ornate architecture of the Kallarak Amphitheater began to break under the stresses of further, smaller explosions that punctuated the growing panic inside and out.

"Look out!" Shi shouted, reaching out to grab one of the falling laser arrays and push it away from the crowds before it crashed to the ground in a tangle of wreckage.

Jay moved instinctively towards the building, his greater skill at telekinesis making it relatively safe for most of the crowd, though there were few places to put the stuff even as his mind called out to every vehicle and emergency system he could contact to call them to the scene.

He barely felt the pain of Shi getting hit, but it spun him around on his heels in time to see her fall, a spotted white Dog behind her with a short club in his hand, ready to hit her again.

Jay held his control over the large objects he was holding up even as training from his youngest years brought an arm up to shoot a needle dart through the canine's throat, killing him as it severed his spine. He focused on the pair, and an air cab that had answered his call, setting them inside and sending it off to the Temple even as he was turning to go inside and help rescue the people already inside.

Mercifully, the vast majority of the amphitheater's million seats were empty, and most of those who were there were at the lowest levels where there was plenty of space to get out. Unfortunately, several of the exits were either blocked by rubble, or by fires set off by the bombs that had gone off. The ground rocked again as another explosion hit and Jay heard a scream off to the right, behind one of the fires.

He bolted that way, following his ears even as he focused his power on extinguishing the fires, both the ones in front of him and the others he could reach, by cutting off their oxygen in a bubble of Force.

"Calm down." He ordered the panicking shewolf as he rushed up, putting enough Force behind his words to get through to her so he could focus on her unconscious mate, half buried in the rumble. "He'll be all right." He told her firmly, but without Force, as he gave what little healing he could to stabilize the male Wolf and get him out from under the rubble.

"Wh-where do we go?" She asked him as he picked her mate up.

"*Master, we have a major problem at the Kallarak Amphitheater. Multiple bombs going off. I alerted the civvies, but help would be useful. Shi's injured, on her way back to the Temple, unconscious, with her attacker, DOA.*" He contacted Essani as his brain started to catch up with what was going on. "Just follow me, ma'am."

"*We just found out, Padawan,*" Essani told him as he started to lead the shewolf out. "*We're sending everyone we can spare to help. Do what you can; we're on our way.*"

Jay closed his eyes on the too-brief lift ride to Medical. His body was exhausted, his mind spent and he'd used more Force energy than any time other than when he's restored the Kraken. His clothes, the loose, shimmering wraps he wore when he was out for the night, were torn and covered in soot, blood and the reek of other people's terror. He knew he should change, but he had to see Shi first. He had to make sure she really was all right after he'd left her in that skycab with the corpse of her attacker.

Medical was as busy as he could ever remember seeing it, mostly with the people from the bombing who'd been hurt worst and couldn't afford to be taken to one of Coruscant's larger hospitals for a bacta treatment. He noticed the Wolf he'd saved, his mate looking up at him with a grateful smile. He was sleeping, his leg in a restraining-cast, but he'd be fine in the end.

Shi wasn't that far off, sitting up in bed with a look on her face he recognized all too well; the look of wanting to help but being under strict orders not to.

"Hey, love." Jay smiled as he walked up to her to brush an errant strand of hair from her face. "Good to see your eyes again."

"Hey," she smiled back at him. "Good to be seeing through them again. Think you can convince somebody I can help out around here now that I'm not concussed anymore?"

"Probably only if I promise to keep you in our quarters till late ... whatever the next time is." He smiled warmly. "I bet it's your Master who did this."

"I know it was," she muttered, crossing her arms. "I know I shouldn't be going out to help, but look around here! I know I can handle this."

"There's nothing much there to help with anymore, or I wouldn't be back," he glanced around, and then closed his eyes briefly at a mental contact from his Master. "I have to go report to the Council. I'll see if she'll let you work in here, okay?"

"All right," she nodded, settling back. "Good luck."

"*Thanks,*" he touched her mind briefly before focusing on ordering his mind to report what he knew. He paused on the way out to talk to Master Ursal.

"I have my reasons, Jay," the Bear told him, already knowing what he was going to ask about. "Though I think she can help around here, now that the Amphitheater is under control. I'll let her know."

"Thank you, Master Ursal." He inclined his head politely and left, heading up to the Council Chamber as he banished his physical and mental exhaustion once more to focus on what he needed to tell them.

The atmosphere that awaited him was exceptionally sober, each of the Councilors reviewing reports and information they were getting from the field. Their attention turned to him as he stepped into the great Chamber, datapads put to the side.

"Report, Padawan," Master Shan said simply, his tone dark and concerned. It occurred to Jay that it felt distinctly unusual to be speaking to the Council covered in soot and blood civilian clothes, none of it being his.

"The first explosion of seven went off at twenty-one o-eight, the final one at twenty-one twenty." He began, following the order that worked best for him. "They were set at two minute intervals, with a final large charge set to go off at twenty-two hundred for the rescuers. I disarmed that one before it went off.

"Padawan Shi was injured by a Dalmatian when she was helping control the debris from falling on the crowd. I shot him and sent him back with her in the aircar. I then went inside to help get people out and control the fires and damage. The Amphitheater alerted me to the final bomb and where people still were.

"According to the bomb, a group called the Coruscani Dianogas built and set them. Specifically an Alsatian named Bremer that also goes by Boom. Very meticulous, and very personal. Forensics should be able to trace his handiwork anywhere it goes. They were built in the Southern Underground, at a facility that should be marked on your datapads.

"Six dead that I know of, I lost track of the injured around fifty." He finished and rallied his brain for the questions that would come.

"Do you have any indication of how many others are involved?" Master Shan asked. "Or any other names?"

Jay closed his eyes briefly; dredging up the names of those likely involved from the massive jumble of the other names he's heard in the last day.

"At least twenty were directly involved, likely more." He answered after a quick count of his impressions. "Mostly canines. Dallis, Imerin, Jack, Whistle, Stars, Crasher. I believe some of those names are code or nicknames. I can identify many that I don't have a name for."

"A number of Knights will be sent to capture as many of them as possible," Master Shan nodded. "One last question; why didn't you provide more assistance to Padawan Shivasta?"

The question clearly took the exhausted feline back, though to his credit he didn't move.

"She was safely on her way to the Temple." He spoke softly, not entirely comfortable with the choice for all they could feel he believed he did the right thing. "Not all of those who did survive would have if I'd taken the time to heal her myself."

"Thank you, Padawan," the Doberman said, nodding towards him. "You may return to your quarters and clean up."

"*Once you've rested, you may want to meditate on what has happened,*" Master Essani told him over their bond. "*It may be a few days before I am available again.*"

"Thank you, Masters." He bowed deeply to the Council and left. "*I will, Master.*" He replied to her directly.

"He is making progress," Master Noloth observed. "As for these 'Dianogas,' we should act swiftly. We have to assume they're preparing to move even now."

"And that this is not their only planned attack." Master Bas'rath rumbled. "Who is available to go after them?"

"Knights Sash Poth, Anoon Rar, Aawaia, and Darin are currently ready, along with their Padawans," Master Kareth rattled off quickly. "I already took the liberty of dispatching the available rescue workers from the Amphitheater when Padawan Clawson uploaded the initial coordinates into the system."

"If there are no objections," Master Noloth said, his tone saying how unlikely he thought that was, "I will go with them to the primary target. Once we have the location secured, I will coordinate the search from there."

"Go, and Force be with you, Master Noloth." Master Shan nodded an end to the meeting.

Shivasta snuggled up close to Jay, scratching his chest lightly as she woke up late the next evening. After he'd gotten back, she'd spent the next four hours working in medical, tending to injured victims and then injured Jedi returning from the attacks on the terrorist locations.

She'd finally come back to their quarters to find Jay deeply and soundly asleep. He had still smelled lightly of soot and dust, despite having showered off, and that hadn't changed. It likely wouldn't for a few days without much more attention that he'd been up for giving when he'd gotten back.

She held him close, nuzzling his neck lightly. She'd make sure he got that attention, even if it might take a few hours to talk him into it.

"So glad you didn't get yourself hurt," she murmured softly.

She smiled slightly when he shifted and mumbled, the consciousness she'd felt start to rise in him enough that he'd heard her.

She kissed his neck softly, hoping this might be one of the too-rare mornings the Demon would leave him be. After the night and day before, he did not need to deal with that. He murmured and shifted to draw her into his arms and nuzzled her. He still wasn't exactly awake, but he was aware enough to know who was in bed with him. She felt how it settled him as he slowly explored her body with his hands.

"Love you," she murmured softly, kissing his cheek and returning the gentle exploration, her hands moving through his fur as she pressed against his well-muscled body. A body that responded with more interest than she'd expected, but she wasn't about to object when he began to kiss the skin exposed to his mouth, mostly awake and interested in reaffirming the fact they were both still alive.

She returned his kisses, slowly working up his neck to kiss his mouth tenderly. This was going to be one of their gentler mornings, but she wasn't about to complain about that. Today, they both needed it.

She rubbed his back softly, her smooth tongue playing along his lips until they opened to welcome her into the first real kiss of the morning ... or late evening as it was.

"Love you." Jay purred and pulled her close, nuzzling her neck.

"Love you too," she murmured, returning the nuzzle and reaching up to scratch the back of his neck lightly. "You're okay, right?"

"Still wiped out, but okay," he nodded and kissed her neck. "It could have been so much worse."

"But it wasn't," she pointed out. "Good thing we were there," she murmured, kissing the side of his muzzle.

"Yes," he smiled softly and turned into the kiss for a real one. "And we both got out of it in one piece too." He purred and gently squeezed her ass, his hard, rough cock rubbing up against her abs.

"Mmm ... with nothing more than a lump on the head and a bit of soot in the fur that I'll get out for you later," she agreed, rubbing against him lightly. She reached down between them to take his naked shaft in her hand lightly. "Though it feels like you'd like some attention of a different sort right now."

"It is morning to me, and you are here." He chuckled and kissed her again with a low moan for her skilled touch. "Love how you feel."

"Good," she smiled, starting to stroke his shaft lightly. "'Cause you're going to be feeling a lot more of me."

"Good," he groaned and gave himself over to her willingly.

She kissed her way down his collarbone and torso as she stroked his cock, finally letting the barbed length brush against her breasts before taking him into her hungry mouth. His throaty moan was music to her, arousing and relieving at the same time. As rough as the previous day had been on him, he was recovering quickly.

It wasn't something everyone did, even this late in their training.

"Oh, yes." Jay breathed sharply and reached down to stroke her hair as she worked his cock. As good as it was, he wasn't holding back. He wanted inside her too much to.

"*Soon, love,*" she promised him mentally, teasing his barbs with her tongue, teasing his balls and anus with her fingers as he moaned and began to thrust into her mouth, his pleasure building quickly. She reached up with her free hand, going through a few minor contortions to open the drawer and pull out the thick green lube she'd use next. She took him into her throat, moaning softly around his length as she suckled him hungrily until he stiffened and roared, thrusting into her mouth with each spurt of gooey come.

She pulled back, suckling his tip and drinking his seed hungrily, lapping his shaft clean as she opened the lube and took some of the thick gel on her fingers.

Jay rumbled as he caught his breath, looking forward to the pleasure even more as she coated his barbs with the lube, smoothing his shaft out without decreasing the sensitivity.

Once there was a reasonably thick layer coating his length, she moved up to kiss him hungrily, the flavor of his seed heavy on her breath as she rolled him to his back and slowly slid herself down his length, groaning deeply with him as his hands found her hips and they began moving in the easily pleasure of long familiarity.

Jay felt his breath catch when she tightened her body, his body still sensitive from his first orgasm. He didn't even think about it as he ran his hands along her back and pulled her close to roll them over so she was under him.

"Oh Jay," she moaned as their lips parted, squeezing down around his length lightly. "Love you so much...."

"I love you," he shuddered in their pleasure and found his position to thrust into her deeply, a set of sensations that drove them both to the edge hard and fast.

It didn't take long for Shi to come; her body spasmed around him as she moaned his name, her fingers raking his back as she milked his cock and he roared and filled her with hot seed.

"So sweet," he murmured and kissed her even as he continued to rock into her body as they calmed down.

"You can say that again," Shivasta smiled, kissing him back and squeezing down around his length. "Mmm ... want another round, or let me pamper you for a bit, get that soot-smell out?"

"Well, you know what water does to me," he chuckled throatily and nuzzled her. "It'll be a few rounds before we get out. But I like where I am right now." He added and shifted to thrust into her a little harder, his eyes closing for a moment in the pleasure.

"Ooh... somehow, I think I do too," she rumbled, scratching his back lightly and gripping his ass, pulling him against her. "Take me, Jay."

"Any time you wish." He purred and began thrusting hard, rubbing her clit with slick matted fur with every motion.

"Approaching Coruscant," Doruth rumbled, turning in the pilot's seat to look at Tes and their youngest cubs. "How're they doing?" He asked her, smiling fondly at the tiny sleeping Panther-Wolves curled up in her arms.

"Suckling well and strong." She smiled down at them. "It's a little strange, but they are adorable."

"Definitely," he smiled, reaching over to scratch the female cub nearest him gently between her dark, rounded ears.

"I think Mother has an excellent eye for aesthetics too." Tes chuckled softly. "The combination of features is not only attractive, but gives them the best combat abilities of us both."

"I have to agree," Doruth smiled, kissing Tes softly and turning back to take care of the Gurath through re-entry. "I can't believe they're as well behaved as they are, y'know?" He chuckled. "Remember the kaminoans warning us all over the place about how hybrids were usually nasty as hell?"

"Everything is relative, love." She grinned at him. "As far as I can tell, raising your voice there qualifies. They aren't predators. Not like us at least."

"Very true," he chuckled. "Though if this is ill-tempered to them," he smiled, "have to wonder what they'd say about some of the pups."

"What just about everyone does," she winked. "Run away!"

"That, or give 'em a pocker and hope they're contented hunting the fish," he chuckled. "I can only imagine what Nasim and Abayomi will be like when they get to the hunting stage. Pack stalkers, anybody?"

"As if the last two litters haven't been." Tes snickered. "At least there are only two of them. I can only imagine what a full litter of six would be like to try and manage."

"There's a reason Shiraak Panthers don't do multiple litters too often," Doruth smirked over at her. "When we don't learn our lesson the first time, the second finishes the job."

"Apparently not on you." She winked back and pulled him over for a kiss. "Though I must admit there it something nice about having young and not giving birth."

"Mmm ... I get to cheat," he chuckled slightly, kissing her back. "Besides, Wolf pups still usually hang out with each other, and we've got the Pack. Panther parents have to deal with each cub being individualists, usually just the two of them if that, and they don't have a Temple full of Jedi willing to serve as part-time babysitters and spotters."

"That would make things much less fun," she admitted. "Wolves rarely lack for babysitters. We also haven't had to raise them past the age of two."

"True," he nodded, leveling the Gurath out as they started to approach the Temple. "Though that's as more our work than not wanting to, honestly."

"And the strength of the Force in the pups." She nodded. "I suspect this pair will do best as Jedi."

"Quite possibly," he nodded. "It's pretty potent in them; I can't help but wonder if the process strengthened it some."

"We did say we wanted them sensitive," she pointed out with a slight smile. "They no doubt did their very best to make it as strong as allowed."

"Very true," he nodded. "Well, as long as they don't start opening the door telekinetically when we do close it, I think we'll be okay," he winked.

"If not, they'll get a very early sex ed." She chuckled and shook her head.

"Mmm ... well, let's just worry about introducing them to the welcoming committee for now," he chuckled, standing at the Gurath's automated landing sequence began. "Looks like Fenrik's off on a mission, but we've still got two Padawans and the Pack who look like they're about willing to rip the hatches off."

"You know how much they hate being left behind." Tes grinned in amusement. "It'll never be too soon to see the new young ones."

"And this time they didn't have to wait the better part of a month," he chuckled slightly as they set down. "Want me to take Nasim?" He offered.

"Sure," she carefully shifted so he could pick the small bundle of black fur that was the male of the pair.

He picked up the cub carefully, nuzzling his head lightly as the black-furred hybrid snuggled up in his arms, getting comfortable with a slight yawn, but not waking up the rest of the way.

"They are so adorable when all they want to do is sleep and eat." Tes chuckled softly and stood to follow him outside, and into the maelstrom of a Wolfpack greeting.

Hands and noses were very promptly just about everywhere they could politely be, mostly focused on the new cubs. It was a greeting that Doruth was finally getting used to, thought to judge by the slightly confused looks on Nasim and his sister as they woke up to the smells of unfiltered air and curious Wolves, they were going to take a bit to manage it themselves.

Of course, they had the advantage of being so young and having it in half their genetics, two things he didn't have.

"So this is what a Wolf-Panther mix looks like." Jay's voice was curious when he moved in after the worst of the Wolf-greetings were over for Doruth and they focused a little more on Tes. Even after having reached his full growth a couple years before, it still struck Doruth how tall Jay was. When he'd first picked him up, he doubted the kit would have made five feet at the ears. Now he was the size of a Puma and while still fairly lean, he had put on some serious muscle too.

"Yeah," Doruth smiled as Jay and Shi worked up closer to him. "Fenrik on a mission?" He asked as Nasim stretched in his arms and nipped at the curious furred finger that went to caress his jaw.

"Yes, playing guard for somebody visiting Clak'dor." Jay rolled his eyes.

"Poor guy," Doruth said, shaking his head. "Of course, with the luck we've had, he'll find something to get mixed up in there."

"Probably," Shivasta chuckled, smiling as one of Abayomi's small hands closed around her finger. "They're both beautiful," she told Tes with a smile. "Unusual, but beautiful."

"Their grandmother has a good mind for how well features will go together." Tes grumbled in family pride.

"If not, he'll regret missing the excitement on my birthday." Jay shook his head. "It's been a hell of a couple days."

"What happened?" Doruth asked. "It's starting to sound like we hit the wrong time to go pick up the cubs, almost."

"You didn't catch the news?" Jay blinked in surprise. "The Kallarak Amphitheater was bombed by terrorists just before the Rush concert."

"We were outside when it happened." Shi added quietly. "The Temple's still at full alert."

"Shit," Doruth swore quietly, shaking his head. "Well, you two are okay, obviously, so I'm not going to ask about that. They know who did it yet?"

"Yeah," Shivasta nodded. "And they think they've caught most of them, from what I've heard, they're just not sure if there are any more out there."

"I'm going to their headquarters in a couple hours to see if I can get any information we don't know." Jay added softly and finally got to scritch the male cub's head. "Put my Gift to good use."

"Just be careful," Doruth cautioned him. "You want some backup when you go?"

"You'd be welcome," Jay smiled at him. "Several of the Knights involved in the first retaliatory wave are coming already."

"I'll look over the info you've already got when we get back to our quarters," Doruth said with a slight nod. "Judging by who usually pulls off attacks like this when they happen, I might know the areas they're in better than the other Jedi you'll have better."

"I'll make sure you actually get all the info." Jay nodded. "A lot of them have been captured already. I'm mostly going to pull names and faces of the rest from a headquarters, and maybe where they went."

"That'd definitely be good," Doruth nodded slightly.

Just then, Nasim decided that it was clearly far too long since he and his sister had been the focus of attention, or fed for that matter. The Panther-wolf let out something between a yip and a mew, squirming a bit in Doruth's arms.

"All right, you boys can chat all you want, but it's time for the cubs to eat." Tes took over completely and shifted Abayomi in her arms so she could take Nasim as well. "We'll be in our quarters."

"And I'll be following in just a couple minutes," Doruth said, kissing her lightly as he handed Nasim over, the male cub pawing at his mother lightly.

"We're meeting in bay six in a little under two hours now." Jay told him quietly. "It'll be good to see you there."

"I'll probably be there," Doruth nodded. "I don't know the Southern Underground as well as some places, but probably better than most of the other Jedi you'll have with you."

"If they're that predictable, we need to get more proactive about that place." Jay shook his head a bit. "It's good to have you back, but I have to get ready for the mission. It'll probably be a major effort."

"Understood," Doruth nodded. "Force be with you, both of you," he said, looking between Jay and Shi before heading back towards his quarters with Tes.

He was definitely going to have to look up the information they had on what had happened, especially with the unique level of clearance Jay had just given him.

Jay let his eyes close for a moment, letting the Force of the Jedi fall away in favor of his natural Gift. The Knights around him where uneasy. He could still feel it, though it was only an impression that the materials were picking up. Something this building was well accustomed to.

He knelt and set both his palms flat on the floor, letting his awareness and power flow outwards in a Force-visible, oozing wave that encompassed every non-living thing it touched, linking him into Coruscant itself on a level no one had in generations. It was a rush he hadn't experienced since the Kraken, and it was far more potent.

He reached out and linked to the holo-projector and brought up the first face he found, marking the location and the beginning of its trail with a colored trail of power to show their movements.

"Know him?" He asked distantly.

"I do," Doruth nodded, watching along with the other five Knights with them and Shivasta. "Don't think he's very high up though. See if you can find any more, Jay. Once we've got as many as we can, we'll split up."

"Captured?" Jay asked quietly.

"No," Knight Fran told him.

"More importantly, he's a supplier, not somebody who would have been directly involved in the plot," Doruth added, looking over the image of the half-Wolf.

Jay nodded and dropped the trail, seeking the next one. It was almost on top of the last one, a female Raccoon.

"Now she's more interesting," Doruth said, raising an eyebrow. "I've seen her on a few planets, usually just before something big and expensive blew up. Any idea where she is?"

Jay focused on the trail, following it in a visible trail for several yards before the tracker went invisible, following her footsteps as a bloodhound would follow a scent, but much, much harder to loose. A floor remembered every step taken on it, after all.

"Knight Bes, Koron," Doruth said, looking at the paired Caracal Knights, "follow that one. We can't afford for her to get away; if anybody in this gang is the key to capture, I'd say it's likely her."

"Yes, Master Doruth." The pair nodded easily and took off after the trail of Force leading to who knew where.

Jay split his focus and picked up another trail, an Alsatian male.

"Captured." Knight Fran said, then repeated it for the next six. "Dead." He added about a Mutt, and then paused to double check his memory when a dark furred feline of indeterminate breeding came up.

"Loose." He decided.

The pattern continued until, finally, there were only two left without Knights assigned to their trails.

"Jay, Shi, you two go after the Duros," Doruth told them. "Be careful, but I think he'll probably come without a fight once he's been caught. Just don't let on that you're not Knights yet. I'll take the Cheetah myself," he said, picking the one he was certain was the leader of the Dianogas. It didn't seem to be a particularly large group, mercifully. If they could get them all behind bars quickly enough, then maybe it would discourage imitators.

"If I track them, the other trails will be lost." Jay said softly, his attention stretched to his limit. "I can't really move until it's over."

"Shi, call the Temple on the comlink, ask for somebody else to come and help track the Duros," Doruth said easily. "You'll have to stay here and cover Jay."

"Yes, Master Doruth," she nodded, more than fairly certain that he was doing this mostly to keep them out of trouble, though she couldn't really blame him for it.

Fenrik hurried through the halls of the Temple, doing his best to look and stay calm. He'd heard about the attack just before landing, and barely had time to make sure Shi and Jay were okay before touching down. Right now, he didn't particularly care that everything said they were fine. He wanted to see them.

Unfortunately, the system said they were in a debriefing right now; he'd have to wait until they were finished. He stepped into their quarters, slipping his outer robes off as he entered the bedroom and sat down on the bed. No telling how long they'd be. Hopefully not too long, or he might go stir-crazy.

He took a deep breath, straightening out as he started to meditate, keeping an ear out for any sign they were back. With any luck, he'd be over the initial worry by then.

Too slowly, he felt himself begin to settle. Not to serenity, but by the time he heard the outer door open he didn't feel the need to jump them both that instant.

He came out of his meditation, taking another deep breath before he stood up and left the bedroom to meet them.

"I get sent on one lousy mission to Clak'dor, and I find out you two've been dealing with terrorists when I get back?" He asked, trying to sound like he was joking as he hugged both his mates before they could do more than realize he was in the room.

Of course, that he managed it was testament to just how worn out Jay really was. The Temple itself always let him know what was up.

"So did you have any fun?" Jay smiled and kissed him soundly.

"Mmm ... not as much as you guys did," the Panther chuckled slightly, glancing at Shi. She held up an open hand, signaling that it had been five days since Jay had gotten any decent sleep. "C'mon, let's all wind down a bit, 'kay?" He smiled, drawing Jay back towards the bedroom without resistance.

"Oh, we only just about got blown up, Shi got knocked out by a psychopath and the Order went to war." Jay chuckled softly as he was helped shed his robes and all but melted into the warm, strong embrace of his Panther.

"And finished it," Shi added, stripping down as Fenrik pulled Jay into bed and held him close. The Ice Walker slipped in behind him. "So, what did you do?"

"Besides learning a dozen different ways to say 'sit down and shut up' that work with mind control?" Fenrik chuckled. "Kept some Bith scientist from launching a gene bomb that would have either fixed Clak'dor or wrecked it even more."

"How could you wreck it anymore?" Jay asked sleepily as he relaxed in between his mates with a grateful, contented sound after a hard job well done.

"Mmm ... ask again once you're conscious," Fenrik murmured with a smile, kissing Jay softly. "Maybe by then I'll have an answer."

"*He's so cute like that,*" Shi smiled fondly at the rusty tom between them who didn't even contest the idea of sleep. "*Doruth and Tes are back too, with the cutest Panther-Wolf cubs.*"

"*I'll have to meet them later,*" Fenrik smiled. "*He hasn't been pulling these stretches without sleep the whole time, has he?*"

"*No, only since his birthday.*" She shook her head slightly. "*That's when the attack happened.*"

"*So it's probably just because he's been busy,*" Fenrik said, his relief clear in his mental voice.

"*Yeah, he's not being difficult. Most of the Temple pulled double shifts for at least a couple days.*" She nodded and snuggled in.

"*How're you holding up?*"

"*Fine,*" she told him easily. "*Just got sucker-hit by one of the people involved in the bombing while I was shoving debris out of the way. Knocked out, concussion, I was fine in a half hour.*"

"*Why do I suspect you didn't get out of the Temple for at least a day?*" He chuckled softly.

"*Because I have an over-protective Master and mate?*" Shi chuckled, reaching across Jay to rub his side lightly.

"*You need 'em sometimes,*" Fenrik chuckled, reaching around to scratch her back lightly.

"*Mmm... missed you, Fen,*" she smiled. "*We both have.*"

"*I've missed you both, a lot.*" He murmured softly and snuggled in. He wasn't all that tired, but resting with his mates was the best use of his time until the Council wanted his report that he could think of.

"At this rate, we're going to seriously change the Jedi population." Tes chuckled throatily as she nuzzled her mate when they finally got some time to themselves.

"Mmm... racial mix, or population?" He asked her with a chuckle and a nuzzle. "At least this time there are only two of them. I think the Knights in the crèche were grateful they didn't have a full litter when the second set were ready for them."

"Population." She winked. "You'd think they've be used to it, with as many Wolves as there are around here."

"I think it's less the Wolves than that they're ours," he chuckled. "We've never been accused of having kids who weren't feisty. Can only imagine what they'll think of the cubs."

"As long as it's not fear, they'll survive." Tes snickered and began kissing her way down his powerful neck. "But speaking of cubs ... Fenrik was Knighted five years ago. Any plans for taking in another?"

"Mmm ... not all that soon," he rumbled softly, rubbing her back and nuzzling her head lightly. "Thinking of waiting until Aitana or Karina are ready," he explained.

"Another five years?" She looked up in surprise.

"Something like that," he nodded, looking into her eyes, a little confused at her response. "Just hit another Wolf versus Panther difference, didn't I?"

"Probably," she nodded and continued to kiss her way down his body, taking the time to tease his nipples with her soft tongue and sharp teeth. "Most Wolves teach as often as they can."

"Mmm... I'm just not that much of a teacher, I guess," he chuckled. "I'm not bad at it, but it's not something that's a calling for me." He rubbed her shoulders, rumbling as she nuzzled her way down his belly. "Mmm ... care to give me something to play with up here?" He asked with a half-grin.

"Anytime," she grinned and turned herself around to give him a nice view of her ass and sex.

"Good," he purred, taking her hips and licking her sex with his rough tongue. He lapped at her sex as she reached his own barbed shaft and took him all the way in down to his balls, teasing the barbs with her tongue, mouth and throat.

"Oh yes," he groaned, purring as he spread her pussy lips and slipped his tongue into her tight, wet sex.

It made her shiver and rumble around his cock while she began to work her head back and forth, mimicking the movements of mating. She reached down with one hand to gently fondle and squeeze his balls.

He sank his tongue into her sex deeply, hungrily, exploring her body with his mouth. His teeth pressed lightly into her swollen lips as his balls started to twitch in his mate's fingers. He knew every trick for setting her off, but it was still a rare day that he didn't come in her mouth first.

He swirled his tongue around her insides once more before groaning deeply into her pussy, doing just that. His shaft twitched as his bittersweet cum poured over her tongue and down her throat to be swallowed eagerly. His balls still twitching, she pulled forward from his grip and turned around to guide his cock fully into her body with a groan of her own.

"Oh, yes." Tes howled at the fullness and pleasure of having her mate inside her as her body began to twitch and tighten around him. "Fuck me hard."

He rolled over on top of her, starting to pound his slick, barbed cock into her sex hard and fast, kissing her hungrily.

It was a week or two later, and everything was more or less back to normal after the attack on the Kallarak Amphitheater. Shivasta was packing, breathing slowly and deliberately to keep herself calm deep inside.

She was preparing for her solo mission. It sounded fairly simple, which was what was really worrying her. A Chandrilan noble had contracted an unusual illness, and she was supposed to go make sure he got better. She could probably do it in her sleep, on the face of it.

Well, if it really was that simple, so much the better. She'd have more complicated missions enough in the future, had in the past as well, though she'd always had help with them before. This time, she was on her own.

"Shi?" Jay's voice was uneasy as he poked his head into the bedroom.

"Hi Jay," she smiled over her shoulder, packing up the last spare robe she planned on needing. "Sorry, didn't hear you come in."

"You're going ... the Solo?" He said hesitantly.

"Yeah," she nodded, turning to face him. "Don't worry," she smiled slightly. "I'll be fine. Being trained as a Healer primarily, remember? There's a sick patriarch on Chandrila, Master Ursal wants me to go make sure he gets better. Tells you what they expect me to be doing as a Jedi, doesn't it?" She chuckled.

"Just be careful, okay?" He murmured and came in to slide his arms around her, trying to be supportive despite his own nerves. "Even the simplest of missions can go bad."

She returned the hug, embracing him tightly.

"Y'know I'm always careful," she murmured. "Already learned what happens when you're not once, that's a lesson I don't need again. You just make sure you're here, not worrying yourself to death, and you, when I get back, unless you're off on a mission with Master Essani. If you are, I'll still expect those last two to be true, all right?"

"I've got Fenrik too," he smiled and nuzzled her into a kiss. "He's teaching now, so he's not going anywhere. When do you have to leave?"

"As soon as I can, I'm afraid," she said apologetically, returning the kiss. She was going to miss him the most, honestly. "One of the downsides to being a Healer; when you do get a mission, you get it then.*"

"Like that's much different from Fen's." He smiled, trying to bolster her mood. "Do you want me to pass the news to him?"

"If you don't mind," she nodded slightly. "He's in class now, right?"

"Yes," he nodded and hugged her tightly. "For the next hour or so."

"Mmm ... if I could wait that long, I would," she murmured, squeezing Jay tight. "Tell him I'm sorry, okay?" She kissed Jay tenderly, stepping back a bit and picking up her pack. "Love you both."

"We love you." He let her go reluctantly. "Godspeed, Shi."

She hugged him again, knowing full well just how hard letting her go out alone was. He was stressing enough for all of them, for all he was doing his damnedest to contain it. It was endearing as often as it was infuriating.

"Thanks," she murmured, scratching his back lightly with her free hand. "Don't worry, I'll be coming home pretty soon, I'm sure. And I've got a few tricks up my sleeve too, if this mission is more than it looks like."

"I know; you trained with some of the best." He managed a smile. "And she'd never let you go if she didn't think you were ready."

"You kidding? She'd never have let me take the first Trial if she didn't think I was ready," Shivasta smiled fondly. "Afraid I have to get going. Good luck with the rest of yours, okay?"

"Thanks." He swallowed a bit as she hurried from their quarters. "*It's okay, Fen.*" He answered the increasingly insistent presence in his mind. "*Nothing's wrong.*"

He drew a deep breath and walked into the larger-than-usual living/dinning room of their quarters, pushed the furniture out to the walls to give him space with a motion of his hand.

This wasn't a moment for quiet contemplation. He needed to sweat it out of his system. Maybe sweat of another kind when Fenrik was done with his class.

He fell into the easy pattern of katas, focusing on the practice, on the motions and keeping them precise and identical from one repetition to the next.

By the time he felt Fenrik's mind brush against his, the Panther almost back at their quarters, the time left in his class had passed by fairly quickly.

"*I'm coming in, Jay,*" Fenrik told him, just before the door slid open to let him and Jay let his last kata fall away to turn and hug his mate.

"How'd class go?" Jay purred softly, clearly relieved to have his mate in his arms.

"Well," Fenrik said, rubbing his back lightly. "Jenna's picking things up about twice as fast as anybody else is," he chuckled slightly. "What happened?"

"Nothing serious. Shi just left for her Solo." He murmured and buried his face against Fenrik's chest.

"And you're worried sick already," Fenrik finished for him, scratching his back. "She can take care of herself, Jay. I know you want to make sure she stays safe, but you both have to be able to work on your own."

"I know," he muttered softly. "Doesn't mean I have to like it."

"I know," Fenrik nodded, kissing him and felt him relax a bit. "Hey, you've still got me here, right?" He chuckled, trying to help break the mood. "She'll be back soon, then done with her Trials and probably start working in Medical most of the time, only head out when she's needed."

"Yeah," he smiled slightly and claimed a slightly more heated kiss. "Up for distracting me while she's still in-system?"

"Mmm ... I think I'm up to the challenge," Fenrik purred, kissing him deeply before picking him up and carrying him into the bedroom.

Shi opened her eyes from a fairly restful meditation when she felt the ship drop out of hyperspace. It was something of a relief to be far enough away to not feel Jay's stress. He meant well, and he only wanted the best, but it was difficult to know just how hard this was on him. He took separation anxiety to a whole new level. At least Fenrik was with him to deal with their occasionally very high maintenance mate.

Soon she would know first hand how difficult this mission would be. With a little luck, she'd be able to take care of whatever was wrong and get back to Coruscant fairly quickly. She rather doubted it, but it was possible.

"Approaching Chandrila, Ma'am," the pilot-droid informed her. It was a polite one at least, programmed to work with the diplomats who usually made the brief trip between the two Core worlds.

"Very well," she nodded, standing up and collecting her things. Her lightsaber hung at her hip, her clothes and a few tools she might need in her pack, but other than that she was traveling lightly. She did hope they'd provide her with room and board at this noble's place; it could get expensive in Hanna, and while the Order had given her a stipend, it would be tight.

The ship tilted, dropping into the atmosphere as she started out to prepare for the landing.

It was a lovely world outside the portholes as they descended; still lush and green even in the cities where trees and parks were common between buildings. They flew in over the wildlife preserve to the south of the capital, finally touching down in one of the planet's three spaceports.

The door opened, and she was greeted by the site of a white-furred Mouse male not much older than she was, a lean Wolf bodyguard at his side looking distinctly out of place in his light armor and with a blaster at his side.

"Padawan Shivasta, I believe?" The Mouse asked, stepping forward and extending his hand in a polite offer to help her down the boarding ramp.

"Yes, Master Odona." She smiled and accepted the offered gallantry with easy grace.

"Thank you for coming so quickly," the Mouse said as he helped her down. "We're all very worried about my father; he's normally quite healthy, but he is getting older. Come, I have a speeder waiting for us already." He led the way towards the vehicle in question, a very high-end model if she remembered right, as she followed, the Wolf keeping a protective eye on them all from the rear.

"I have read the report that was sent, but could you give me any more details on this illness?" She asked politely as the vehicle lifted off.

"Of course," he nodded. "In retrospect, it may have started a few years ago, not too long after mother died. I just wish we'd thought more of it. Father was complaining about headaches and nausea, just generally feeling ill. It's why he resigned from the Senate, you know; he was just getting to the point where he had to focus on his health.

"He was feeling better for a while after that; a little depressed, but that was to be expected. He started to focus on teaching me the ropes so I could take over his role as head of the family when he finally decided to retire from the business and everything else. He started to get the headaches again a few months ago, then the other day he just collapsed. The medical droid has been working since then, but it seems like his body is just starting to fail entirely. Nobody's entirely sure what exactly is wrong with him."

The Mouse kept his tone calm throughout the description, but Shivasta could feel that he was sincerely concerned for his father's well-being, and confused as to what could be wrong with him.

"I should be able to tell more than the droid." She said reassuringly, sure of herself on that at least. "And heal a great deal more as well."

"I hope so," he said sincerely. "I'd rather not take over for some time yet, thanks much."

Shivasta could sense that the Wolf driving the speeder was thinking something, though not what. Like most bodyguards, his mind was fairly guarded and she did not have reason to delve any deeper than the surface. She didn't have much time to consider it either as their destination came into clear view.

It was a wide, sprawling estate that was actually at ground-level. Chandrila was vastly different than Coruscant; it seemed to actually have space for the people and creatures that made it their home.

"We're going to set down near Father's end of the house," Master Odona explained. "I'll show you around and make introductions after you've had a chance to see what you can do."

"Thank you." She inclined her head slightly. "It is best to begin as soon as possible."

The speeder touched down, and they climbed out quickly, making their way into the house. Despite the renowned peace and tranquility of the planet, Shi noticed that the security of the estate was at least as good as anywhere else she'd seen before. A number of servants made their way through the corridors, going about their business, keeping the place running smoothly.

She couldn't help but wonder why a fairly small Chandrilan family would need an estate this large. Rich people had very odd priorities.

"Through here," her host said softly as they stopped at a closed door. "With any luck he's getting some rest. He's been feverish the past few days."

He opened the door quietly, revealing a medical droid that was working at a console next to what had to be the most comfortable medical bed Shivasta had ever seen; if not for the instrumentation on it, she would have thought it was a regular bed.

Cadon Odona, the reason she was here, was lying on it relatively peacefully. The elderly Mouse's white fur was matted with sweat, and she could tell that he was hooked up to a number of different machines meant to supplement failing internal organs, his kidneys in particular.

He hadn't been kidding when he said the old Mouse's body seemed to be shutting down.

Obviously, this was not going to be quick, even if it did turn out to be well within her abilities. She walked up to him and gently put one hand on his forehead, connecting to the flow of Force within his body and making her way from his mind to his toes.

What she found was disturbing, to say the least. Normally she'd have expected to feel the presence of the bacteria and viruses, whatever was making him ill. Instead, she quickly confirmed a number of symptoms that hadn't been mentioned ... but no sign of a cause.

His liver and kidneys were badly damaged, he was anemic, his immune system and nervous system was failing ... it was a miracle he was doing as well as he was. She could tell that there were bruises on his body that didn't seem to have been caused by any physical trauma.

She didn't know of any diseases that could do this ... but she did know of a number of poisons that could.

She drew a deep breath and focused again, tapping into the minimal training she had on the subject. She could leave them to believe tests or her, but she would at least tell them what to test for before she said a word.

She couldn't tell exactly what it was, but that alone told her a fair amount. It wasn't organic, wasn't anything that had been alive at some point. To judge by the symptoms, and the fact that she could sense some of the damage was very, very old, it wasn't something that was exceptionally lethal. Arsenic seemed to be the best bet, and something they probably wouldn't have thought to check for. It wasn't exactly a common poison to use, especially not on a world that didn't have murders.

It left her with a critical question: who to tell, and when.

First, though, was to heal what she could right now to buy enough time to heal the rest and purge his body of the poison.

"Master Odona," she glanced over her shoulder to look at the white Mouse. "I can help him a great deal."

"Thank you," he said gratefully. "Should we leave you to work?" He asked her, not sure what was necessary for the Jedi to do her best.

"It would be best. This will take time." She explained gently.

"I understand," he nodded. "It's still better hope than we've had lately. Let us know when you are done; we'll see to it that you get settled in then."

"I will, Master Odona." She nodded politely and waited for the Mouse to leave.

Now to get the proof to go to the authorities with. It was nice of them to provide her with a droid capable of running all the tests she needed and begin the protocols that remove the heavy metal from the elder Mouse's body.

A few hours later, Shivasta's suspicions were bearing out. According to the droid's test of the ex-Senator's fur, he'd been receiving low levels of arsenic since before his last coat had come in. It was almost too low for the droid to detect, which explained why it had taken so long to build up to near-lethal levels.

It also implied that he'd been given larger doses prior to his resignation from the Senate, though there was no way of telling if that was connected to this, or proving it if he was.

He was lucky they'd called for help when they did; if they'd waited much longer, it would probably have been too late. Instead, she'd healed the worst of the damage, and they were getting ready to start leaching the poison from his body. The medical droid was busily setting up the equipment for the oxygen therapy, and one of the servants was going into town to collect a number of less technical remedies she was going to try.

There was a soft knock at the door as she stretched out.

"Lady Jedi? Master Kelith said I should bring down some food for you and Master Cadon," the servant on the other side explained.

"Very well." She said easily and opened the door with a touch of Force. It wasn't a bad idea, though she'd definitely be checking it for the poison first. "Leave it on the table. I will see my patient eats."

"Very well, ma'am," the brown-furred Mouse fem said, bringing in a tray of sliced fruit and other finger foods, a bowl of hot broth next to it for the elderly Mouse she was working with. "How is he doing?"

"Much better, though it will be some time before he is fully well." She smiled slightly.

"I'll let the Master know," the young female smiled. "Is whatever he has very contagious?" She asked.

"No, it is hardly contagious at all." Shi reassured the girl easily. It was true after all. Poisons were hardly ever contagious.

"Nobody really thought it was, but there was some concern," she nodded. "If you'd like, I can show you around when you're ready to take a break."

"Thank you. It will be several hours yet." She nodded slightly.

"All right," the Mouse nodded. "If you or Master Cadon need anything, the servants have been instructed to make themselves available whenever you call," she explained, nodding towards the com in the room.

"I understand, thank you." Shi nodded again and waited for the servant to leave before running the simple test to check for arsenic in the broth. She was pleased to find it clear of contaminants and a good quality for the invalid. She put it in a small warmer to keep it free of germ growth while still the right temperature for when he woke. Most of his nutrients came in by IV, but it was good to keep his stomach and digestive track at least a little active.

Besides, he'd probably prefer to have something with some flavor.

She had to wonder how it was being brought in. Clearly it was something that only he would be exposed to, at least regularly. It was probably still in a meal, but there were probably a dozen different ways she could think of that he could be exposed to it. As absurd as it seemed that there might be a professional behind this, here, it was possible, and they would likely know far better how to deliver it without being detected.

It just meant she'd keep have to test everything until the mystery was unraveled.

She sat down, eating her own meal quietly while the droid finished setting up the equipment and went back to silently running scans and monitoring its patient's vital signs.

Just as she finished eating, she saw Cadon start to stir slightly, shifting in his bed without disturbing his IV.

"There's somebody new here," he observed, his voice surprisingly strong for the shape his body seemed to be in. His eyes were still closed, but it seemed to be more out of a desire not to open them if it was just one of the servants than out of actual weariness.

"Yes, Master Cadon." Shi answered him easily. "I am Shi, a Jedi Healer. Do you feel like eating some broth?"

"Yes, thank you," he said. He tried to sit up a bit better, but stopped and opened his eyes when an ear bumped the edge of one of the new monitors. "These are new," he observed, moving his head and sitting up. "Mind filling me in on what's going on here?"

"You are being poisoned, sir. Arsenic. It began well before you left the Senate. I have healed much of the damage and am preparing to leach the poison from your body."

"That's the sort of thing I'd have expected to happen on Coruscant," he muttered slightly. "That's what all this is for then?" He asked, nodding towards the gathered equipment.

"It began on Coruscant, sir, but it continues to this day." She explained briefly. "Arsenic is a heavy metal; all of this is what it takes to get it all out of your body so the damage I healed does not happen again. Who had that kind of access to you, from well before you left Coruscant to now?"

"Through that whole period, practically nobody," he said, wincing a bit as he shifted. "None of the people working for me on Coruscant followed me back here, and Kelith and Jen both spent most of that time finishing their education here. Han is about the only one, but I can't imagine he was responsible for this."

"It may also be someone you had semi-regular contact with but not daily contact." Shi suggested. "Whoever did this is using very low doses, possibly not even intending to kill you so much an incapacitate you. It would take many years to build to this level. Possibly even decades. Is there a reason I should not take this to the local authorities?"

"Only if you're worried they might laugh at you," he said matter-of-factly. "I'll be honest with you, Jedi Shi. The last time the authorities here had to deal with a murder, the man the weapon was planted on ended up having to clear his own name, despite there being no other evidence that he was responsible. There is a great deal of emphasis on dealing with such crimes as quickly and quietly as possible. But as far as I'm concerned, any who would do something like this to me are no kin or friends of mine, and I will not protect them."

That would make it easier, at least. She hadn't run into it herself, but she'd been lectured several times by Master Ursal and others about how, sometimes, the victim of an attack like this would refuse to believe it.

"I am under some obligation to inform the authorities, but very little as to when or exactly who." She half suggested. "I have a great deal of latitude to investigate myself, particularly as this falls under a poisoning of my patient that is still going on. If you would prefer, I can see what I can find out first."

He thought about it for a few moments, honestly thought about it.

"I would appreciate it," he nodded slightly. "The most logical person to be behind this would be Kelith, or somebody working on his behalf. He does stand to gain the most if I died. But if he isn't guilty, it could prove quite damaging if he were investigated for it officially."

"I understand," she inclined her head gracefully. "I will keep this unofficial as long as I can, then. I do request that you do not eat, drink or touch anything or anyone I have not checked until I can find out how you are being poisoned. It can be nearly anything at this point."

"The eating and drinking is largely under your control at this point, he chuckled slightly. "I'll try to keep the touching in mind, though as you might imagine my children and friends are rather concerned."

"I do understand, but it can be done through quite subtle physical contact. Fortunately, most will not have to be searched. Such intentions are usually quite clear to a Jedi." She gently brushed her hand along his most sore points to ease the pain of him sitting up. "Now let us see how well the broth goes down."

"All right," he nodded, behaving remarkably well for one of her patients that needed to be fed. To be fair, she was fairly sure he would have been able to handle it himself, but the IV would have made it awkward at best.

Shi looked up from her meditative position fairly early the next morning. A servant had brought her a nice pillow to sit on, and it had turned into a quiet, restful night that had done a great deal to rejuvenate her.

The door opened quietly to reveal the soft brown Mouse that had brought them dinner. This time she brought another tray with similar offerings.

"I am sorry, Lady Jedi." The Mouse bowed after she set the tray where the last one had gone. "I did not mean to disturb you."

"That is all right." Shi said easily as she stood. "I would like to speak to Master Kelith after breakfast."

"I will let him know," the Mouse nodded. "Did Master Cadon wake up last night?"

"Yes he did," she nodded and stood easily. "It is going well."

"I'll let Master Kelith know," the young Mouse nodded. "Do you require anything else Lady Jedi?

"No," Shi shook her head slightly and waited for the servant to leave before checking the broth for her patient, and found it free of poisons, as before.

She still wasn't sure how it had been delivered, though it might have been through food before. After he was sick, the type of foods he'd be eating would be limited, so it could be more difficult to administer that way.

Shivasta put it to warm like she had the night before, eating her own breakfast and thinking through what little she knew. A Mouse in his mid-sixties didn't make too much sense to try and kill like this. It was clearly something being done by somebody who was patient ... and somebody who stood to benefit directly by his death or retirement, given his age, would probably want something faster.

That would be his heirs, enemies that wanted him to hurt more than die quickly ... and those in power-by-proxy.

She blinked as she considered that angle. It made sense, possibly. Those positions were always more tenuous than the heir and it could be very distressing to have that power taken away. It was also something that did not require his death, only his disability.

It was still a very short list given the access had to be constant across two worlds and at least a decade and a half.

He'd mentioned a 'Han,' she'd have to find out who that was. Still, there might be other people he hadn't thought of. It probably wouldn't be a servant, but there were probably people he'd known, kept in touch with. She'd have to look through the personnel lists, follow his travel for the past few years.

Gods, she hoped he kept records like that.

She glanced around and found an artfully concealed console and took her finger food over to begin her research into what she could of the family business and political structure.

She found information on 'Han' first - Han-Odo-Pal, a Cerean male she was surprised she hadn't met yet. According to the records, he was practically the head of the family when Cadon wasn't there. He'd been with them since Cadon had taken charge; Kelith hadn't even been born yet when he started working for them.

The next person of note, outside the family, was the business manager Haskit. She was a bothan, something that caught Shivasta's eye. They were known as a species of spies, and assassination wasn't something they were too adverse to.

Perhaps unfortunately, the timeline didn't work out. She'd been with the family long enough, but on Chandrila for the entire time he was on Coruscant. At least officially. Poisoning like this only required a periodic appearance ... something that didn't always warrant a note. She'd have to ask Cadon about it.

Of course, it was also quite possible that somebody else had been poisoning him on behalf of an employer here... that complicated things quite a bit.

It didn't seem like there were any other likely candidates for non-family members. Either the timelines didn't match up, or they didn't have any sort of logical reason to try and kill the seemingly good-natured Mouse. The entire time she'd worked with him the night before he'd seemed depressed, but otherwise observant, intelligent, and generally likeable. Not the sort of person who would be likely to inspire a servant or other associate to want to kill him without some sort of financial benefit.

That left the family members. Opening up that section of the files, she frowned as she realized that at least one of them was marked as 'secured.' Shanin Odona ... that was a name she wasn't familiar with.

If Jay was here, the file would be open by now, but instead she'd have to find out other ways. The best was to start with simply meeting each of the possible suspects and seeing what her empathy and a little subtle mind-reading came up with. Whoever was behind this was likely to be hiding it, but even that left traces.

Which meant that introductions would probably be a good thing to start fairly soon, get a feel for who she was dealing with.

She poked around the remaining files on the family while she waited for Kelith to arrive. His own file was extensive, a thick dossier on his education, childhood, adulthood, the trip to Corellia that had resulted in his marriage to a local noblewoman, almost his entire life laid out. Much of it was secured information, but it was clear that Cadon had been having most of his child's life documented for review.

The youngest Odona child, Jen, had a file that was almost as long, though it wasn't quite as extensive. It made sense; she wasn't the heir, so unless something happened to Kelith it wouldn't have made as much sense to focus on her the same way.

"Looking for something in particular?" Kelith asked her as he walked into the room, seeing her at the terminal. "I might be able to help you find it. The file system around here is a little archaic at times," he chuckled.

"Just getting a feel for who's who here." She said easily. "Your father is not actually ill. He is being poisoned."

"You're joking, right?" The white-furred Mouse asked. If it was possible, she would have expected him to pale. "I know there are reasons why, but who would do something like that?"

"It gets more interesting. It is long term, low dose, dating back to when he was a Senator. That's a fairly short list of possible suspects."

"All of whom live on the estate now," Kelith said. "So that should make your job easier. I suppose this means that my family and I are on the suspect list?"

"Regretfully," she nodded. "I would like to meet everyone. Anyone with such intentions is usually not difficult to find with a little talking."

"Very well," he nodded. She could sense that he wasn't particularly happy about this development, but that was more than understandable. Behind that, the concern for his father's well-being was still strong. "Is he well enough to handle some stress later?" He asked more softly.

"That depends on the kind of stress," she stood to leave the room with him. "He is much better, but not well."

"Given the condition he was in, my sister decided to contact Shanin," Kelith explained quietly as they left the room. "He and father haven't spoken in years, and she didn't want to let either of them die without a chance to make amends. He returned the message, and if Father is willing to see him, he'll come as quickly as he can."

"Who is Shanin?" Shi asked, remembering the sealed file.

"He was our older brother," Kelith explained quietly, almost like he was concerned somebody would overhear. "A few years ago, he decided to marry against Father's wishes. They fought about it, Shanin left, Father disowned him... Jen supported Shanin, though Father still doesn't know about that. They've been in touch since then, but I've only seen him a handful of times, and it's still a touchy subject at best with Father."

"I understand. As long as I am there to calm things down in case they get too excited, it should not be a health problem."

"All right," Kelith nodded. "We'll still need to ask him first; Shanin was clear that he's not interested in the trip just to be told to leave before he even sets foot on the estate." The Mouse sighed, shaking his head. "Don't know if they'd make amends or not, but it would be good to at least see them have the chance. Preferably when Father isn't actually on his death-bed," he added. "So, any preferences with who to meet first?"

"Who would you say has the most to gain from your father's incapacitation?" She looked over at him seriously.

"Myself," he said, not hesitating for a moment. "After all, if he dies or is unable to run the business permanently, I take over. I already have after this attack, it would just become permanent. Of course, anybody who actually knew me would realize that my head for business is just enough for me to keep it afloat if I had to do it on my own. Beyond that, my wife and sister are the next that I can think of. Most of the servants would be left wondering if they'd be employed yet, and Han and Haskit both seem satisfied with the way things are now."

"Which would actually make them the two most displeased by change, such as you or your father actually taking over the family business again." She countered quietly, her voice soft. "From what I know, your father has a good head for business. When did he begin to take it back over from Haskit?"

"He took more of a hand in running it starting after his resignation," Kelith said, frowning a bit. "He's been taking more of an interest in things in the last year or two, but nothing unusual."

"To you perhaps, but to someone in power, it could be everything. It means they are loosing their power. People have killed for much, much less."

"I suppose," he conceded, frowning. "It's just hard to imagine any of us doing this. Han's been with the family longer than I've been alive, and Haskit's been running the family business since before Father was elected to the Senate. They practically are family."

"I understand," Shi nodded. She really did too. "I'm convinced that you are not directly involved, so let's start with your wife and sister, eliminate the blood relatives first."

"Biani was expecting to meet you first anyways, so we'll start there," he smiled slightly. His wife, according to the file on him. "Come, she'll probably be in the garden."

"Lead the way, please." Shi smiled and motioned him forward, then followed him out of the building to a well-kept garden that was vaguely reminiscent of some of the places she and Jay liked around the Temple. Numerous servants and droids were working on the upkeep of the grounds, and they walked on past them without notice. After a few minutes, they found a white-furred Mouse female who looked a few years older than Kelith, wearing a long, flowing dark blue dress.

"So, you've finally brought our guest out to meet the rest of us, Kelith?" She smiled, standing up as she noticed them.

"She's been rather busy, dear," he chuckled slightly. "Padawan Shivasta, my wife, Lady Biani Odona."

"A pleasure to meet you," Shi bowed easily, her mind open for Biani's true feelings.

"The pleasure is mine, I assure you," the Mouse said, bowing as well, though not quite as deeply. "I do hope you can help Cadon. From what I've heard, you've made a great deal of progress already." She seemed friendly enough, but Shi could sense that her concern wasn't nearly as sincere as she wanted it to seem.

Of course, she couldn't sense any feelings against the older Mouse either... just a near-complete indifference as to what happened with him.

It left her on the suspect list, though not a shining example for the prime one. Indifference was rarely the kind of feeling one expected from a killer.

"I have. Once I located the cause, correcting it and the damage was not as difficult as feared." The young Healer explained, rather hoping Biani wouldn't ask what exactly was wrong, and preparing a sickeningly technical reply in the back of her mind in case she did.

Fortunately, it didn't seem to be necessary.

"Well, that's certainly good news," Biani smiled. "I hope it remains the case. Kelith's been worried sick about him, understandably."

"Quite understandable." Shi agreed easily.

"There is one question I want to ask about Cadon's condition," Biani said, glancing at her husband. "Could I have a few moments in private, perhaps?"

"Yes dear," Kelith chuckled. "I only hover as a host."

"Well, let me play hostess," she chuckled. "You go try talking Jen out of that ridiculous idea she had."

"Not that ridiculous," Shi heard Kelith say under his breath as he turned to leave. She wasn't entirely sure if Biani heard it was well, though the disapproving twitch of her nose suggested she had.

"Well, now that it's just the two of us," she said once Kelith had disappeared into the garden, "you did say that whatever Cadon has isn't contagious, yes?"

"That is correct." Shi reassured her easily. "The odds of anyone catching it from him are all but non-existent."

"Good," the Mouse smiled. "I've been worried about Kelith lately, but I suppose it's just stress. I know you were called to help with Cadon, but I don't suppose you might be able to help him relax a little if you get the chance?"

"If he asks, yes." Shi nodded easily, slightly relieved that the Mouse only meant a massage or something equally benign. "It is a simple enough thing to do."

"I have my doubts that he'll ask, though I'll suggest it to him," Biani nodded. "Between Cadon being ill and having to take over the business... well, it's quite a lot for him, and he's still learning to delegate properly."

"It is rarely an easy task to learn." Shivasta agreed softly.

"Well, if you can help without it interfering with Cadon's treatment, I'd appreciate it," Biani smiled. "Thank you."

"I will see what I can do." She nodded, though she doubted it would be much unless Kelith felt like it.

"Well, I believe Kelith was showing you around?" Biani said. "Would you like me to show you to Jen's room? He'll probably be there talking with her."

"Yes, please." Shi nodded. "I would like to meet everyone before Master Cadon wakes."

"Follow me then," Biani said easily, leading the way back through the gardens. "Hopefully she won't be in one of her moods when we meet her."

Shi nodded. She didn't know what they entailed exactly, but a mood worth avoiding was one that would make it difficult to read the younger sister's intentions accurately.

They walked back into the main house, making their way through the halls that Biani knew well by now. Shivasta focused on learning them herself, and wondering just what else was wrong with this family that the files hadn't hinted at.

A few minutes later, they met Kelith coming the other way, shaking his head. He put on a smile as soon as he saw the two of them. It was just as false to Shivasta's empathy as it was to both the women seeing it.

"So, did you two figure out whatever it was you needed to?"

"Yes dear," Biani said easily. "I think I'll take my leave now, let you continue the introductions."

"So," Kelith asked as they started back down the hall, "what do you think?"

"I doubt she is responsible." She said simply. "She is far more concerned about you than your father, but it is what I would expect as well."

She kept to herself the fact that until someone better came up, doubting it or not, Biani was still at the top of the list.

"That's a relief," he sighed slightly. "She... I love my wife, dearly, but sometimes I think she's a little too interested in her position here. She'll be quite at home when I do become head of the family. I doubt that she'd do anything like this, but I'm not surprised by what you found."

"That matches well with what I got." Shi nodded. "She is also very focused on having children." She offered easily.

"Something of a sticking point between the two of us," he admitted. "Corellian families focus on having several children and potential heirs. Here, our family was a rather large one, what with three children. To be honest, I'm not very much in the mood to 'practice' lately either. Doesn't do much for the tension involved. If she didn't know exactly what the reason was, I'm sure she'd think I was sleeping with one of the servants or some such," he half-laughed.

"I can understand." She nodded slightly. "How is your sister doing?"

"I just convinced her that we should wait until Father's actually said he'll see Shanin before telling him it'll be fine," Kelith sighed. "She was the one who talked him into it in the first place; I suppose she blames herself for it as much as she blames Father. She's been in better moods before, but I don't think she'll hold anything against you."

"I understand. It is simply easier to read people when they are not wound up about other things." Shi explained as they walked.

"Well, if we're lucky she'll be more relaxed now, but I'm afraid I wouldn't bet on it," he explained as they reached a closed door at the end of the hall. "I already told her you'd be coming," he said quietly. "Probably be better for keeping her from being wound up if you just head in on your own."

"All right," Shi nodded and knocked politely.

"If we're not related, come in," a feminine voice on the other side called. Shivasta opened the door and walked in as Kelith waited outside for her. She saw a young Mouse woman, her fur just as white as all the other family members here, lying on her bed, looking over a datapad with a frustrated frown on her face.

"So, you're Padawan Shivasta?" She asked, looking up at the young Jedi.

"Yes, Lady Jen." Shi nodded. "How are you doing?"

"Well enough, considering my Father's half-dead and I haven't seen one of my brothers in years."

"Your father, at least, will recover." Shi smiled gently and keyed all her senses to catch the young woman's reaction. "To his full health, even."

She could tell the response was real surprise, but there was no disappointment in the young Mouse's reaction. She wasn't thrilled, but she did seem to be honestly pleased.

"Given the shape he was in, I wasn't sure how much longer he had," Jen admitted. "Please, take a seat," she said, gesturing to an empty chair. "I'm sorry, I completely forgot my manners."

"That is all right." Shi smiled and sat down. "He would not have had long if the Jedi were not called. It is a very rare condition, but quiet treatable if you know what to treat for. His mind is still sharp, fortunately. It was only his body that was failing."

"That's good," Jen nodded. "I have time at least, then. Of course," she chuckled ruefully, "that means he's healthy enough to be as stubborn as usual."

"Somehow, I expect he will be that stubborn on his death bed." Shi shook her head in amusement. "But yes, you will have time to work on him and your brother."

"That's what worries me. That he'll be that stubborn up to the last minute. Father was more upset that Shanin wouldn't listen to him than about getting married without permission, it's just so stupid to let something like that break up your family."

"Yes, it is." She nodded quietly. "It is also regrettably common in families where the head expects to be able to control those around them."

"That's Father all right," Jen muttered, shaking her head. "I can only guess what he'd do if he found out about half of what I was doing."

"Probably have a fit." Shi sighed. "Is Kelith any better?"

"About the controlling? Yeah," she nodded, chuckling a bit. "He's my big brother; he feels responsible for me, but knows better than to think I'll listen to him unless I think it's a good idea. Besides... deep down, he's not so hot on being in charge like that. Think he's seen what it did with Father, doesn't want to end up the same way."

"That's a good thing, I think." She said quietly. "Your father has several decades left to him, I expect."

"He should, assuming he doesn't manage to give himself a coronary or something," Jen nodded slightly. Again, her emotions on him were hard to read, though Shi had to imagine it had something to do with the fact that hers were mixed about the old Mouse. "Not like there are too many ways to get killed around here besides old age or accidents, much to the chagrin of some."

"Oh?" Shi raised a slender eyebrow.

"Yeah," Jen nodded. "Biani's very eager to make sure Kelith takes over as head of the household. I don't necessarily think she'd actually try to kill Father, but sometimes people get impatient. And Corellians, from my experience, get impatient a little faster than Chandrilans are used to, if you catch my meaning."

"Yes, I do." Shi nodded. By reputation, just about everyone got impatient a little faster than Chandrilans. Well, everyone except everyone Shi knew personally at least. "If she is responsible, it will be found out."

"Not even she could make Father get sick," Jen pointed out. "Unless there's something more to this?"

"There is." Shi said simply. "He is not sick, he is being poisoned. Likely for years now."

Jen's blue eyes were like saucers as she put together what she'd just been told with what she'd just said.

"How - I - I didn't know," she said, shaking her head. "I didn't mean to say that... I mean, I don't know that Biani did anything... she might have, but...."

"Right now, the who is under a fair amount of debate. There are few people who could have with the timing, but I have doubts it is Biani."

"Good," Jen said, her long tail twitching in distress and nervousness. Shivasta could sense she was thinking about something, though she couldn't tell what exactly.

"Do you have any ideas as who would?" Shi prompted gently.

"No ... nothing I know for sure, at least," Jen said, shaking her head. "It's nothing, I'm sure."

She was definitely hiding something, though the question of what still wasn't answered.

"No you aren't." Shi said simply, her manner projecting the certainty that she almost felt. "Someone has done something that bothers you. Who?"

"It's... a few years ago, after Father came back and started running the business more carefully, he and Haskit started arguing. They had different ideas about how they wanted to run it, and they're both very... controlling. I'm sure she didn't do this, she just isn't the sort of person who would, but... she's the only person I've ever heard actually say they wanted to see him dead."

"Words said in anger and frustration are frequently not meant." Shi nodded easily. It was hardly a false statement, after all. But this did put Haskit much higher on the suspects list than she had been before.

"And those are two things she has a lot of reason to feel about Father," Jen pointed out, licking her lips lightly. "Not just the business, but some... personal ones, as well."

That raised an eyebrow. "Personal? Between Haskit and Cadon?" She tried to picture how that had happened.

"No, Kelith told you why Shanin was disowned, right?" Jen asked, then continued when Shi nodded. "Because he married against Father's wishes. He's not the only one seeing somebody he wouldn't approve of."

"I think I'd almost be surprised if anyone had." Shi shook her head slightly. "Though for an employee, that's hazardous to your paycheck."

"There's a reason we're careful about anybody finding out. Kelith doesn't even know," Jen explained. "Besides, she's good enough at her job that I'd be taking a bigger chance than she would."

Shi nodded, a bit surprised that she would hear such a confession, at least so quickly. This was getting more complex by the minute.

"A difficult situation to be in." She nodded. "What is she like, off the job?"

"Intense, controlling... sneaky, in a good way," Jen smiled slightly. "But she's not the sort of person who'd poison somebody. She just says things to me sometimes, things she doesn't mean. I'm somebody she can vent to; it's safe for her to talk to me."

"I do understand." Shi smiled easily in return. "Having someone to vent to, talk to, is a real gift too few have."

"So you can see that just because she says something to me, it doesn't mean she's going to act on it," Jen said. "She couldn't be doing this to Father."

As certain as she sounded about it, Shi couldn't help but detect that she wasn't nearly as certain about it inside.

Add that to the natural protectiveness of a lover, and it was a pretty impressive level of doubt. Not that she could afford to let Jen know that.

"I never take what people say to their close acquaintances too seriously without significant proof from other places. It is simply not wise."

"No ... it's not," Jen nodded slightly. "I can trust you not to tell anybody about this?"

"No one will learn about any of this from me. You have my word." Shi promised easily. It wasn't as if Jen had offered any proof, or admitted to a crime.

"Kelith's probably waiting to finish showing you around," Jen said, looking at the closed door. "Good luck finding whoever did this."

"Thank you," Shi nodded and stood with the easy grace of her training. "I will do my best."

She found Kelith on the other side, waiting as Jen had predicted.

"What do you think?" He asked quietly, glancing at one of the servants walking by to make sure they didn't hear.

"No more guilty than you." Shi answered him. "She's upset about your brother being disowned, but we knew that already."

"And that wouldn't be any real motive for wanting Father dead," he nodded slightly. "You want to go back to check on him, or meet the others yet?"

She paused, expanding her awareness briefly to check on her patient. "I should get back. He will wake soon."

"I'll come with you," Kelith offered, starting back towards the room. "I need to ask him about Shanin, if he's up to it."

"All right," she nodded easily and walked with him towards his father's bedroom.

As they approached the hall, Shivasta heard the sound of somebody tapping away at the console next to the door, presumably trying to enter a working access code.

Turning the corner, she saw the long, dome-like head of a Cerean near Cadon's door.

"That room is restricted access." Shi told him firmly.

"Hmm?" The Cerean turned, his eyebrows grayed with age. "On whose orders?"

"This is Padawan Shivasta, Han," Kelith explained. "She wants to make sure nobody bothers Father unless he's up for it."

"I see," he said. "My apologies, Jedi. I assumed one of the servants had locked the door behind them, though this does explain why it kept telling me my access code wasn't sufficient to override the lock order."

"Yes," Shi nodded, extending her mind to gauge his intent. "What did you need to see him for?"

"I simply wanted to see how he was doing, give him the daily report on how things are going," Han-Odo-Pal explained. "He appreciates being kept up to speed, even being ill." The Cerean's mind and emotions were difficult to read at best; his dual-brain made it like trying to listen to two different conversations at the same time.

She would have to keep a sharp eye on things. This was exactly the kind of situation she wanted to avoid. "After he has eaten breakfast." She said simply. "He is making good progress. I intend to see that is not disrupted."

"I understand," he nodded. "If you would call me when he is ready?"

"I will." Shi nodded easily. "If you will excuse us."

"Of course," he nodded, starting back down the hall.

"I really hope he doesn't have anything to do with this," Kelith murmured. "He's as much a father to me as Father is."

"He's very difficult to read as well." She said quietly and keyed the door open, her senses alert for anything to indicate a person had been in the room.

Fortunately, it seemed nobody had, for all she was sure he wasn't the only one who'd tried to get in at least once.

"I was afraid I'd been abandoned," Cadon chuckled slightly as they walked in. He was sitting up; reading through a book the medical droid had given him. "Good to see I was mistaken."

"Of course you were," Kelith chuckled, stepping up to give his Father a gentle hug. "We all know what you'd do to us if you were."

"Han wishes to speak with you after you've eaten." Shi told the elder easily as she got the broth breakfast from the heater.

"Good," he nodded slightly as Kelith stood and moved back to let Shivasta through to help feed him. "If it weren't for him, I wouldn't know anything about what's going on when I get out of this bed."

"I've begun to meet your family and close employees." Shi smiled at him and helped him eat, though she encouraged him to do as much for himself as he could. "I am confident that your son is not involved." She inclined her head to the other white Mouse in the room.

"Or Jen," Kelith added, sitting down and watching. Cadon did manage to feed himself for the most part, only needing a little help to hold the bowl at this point.

"Good," the older Mouse said, nodding slightly. "I'm not particularly surprised, but it is good to know. Do you have any better idea who might be involved?"

"In terms of who is no longer suspect, yes." Shi said simply. "I have not met everyone yet."

"Very well," he nodded, finishing most of the broth. "I expect that you'll keep me filled in as you find out more about this," he said, his tone clearly expecting no argument.

"Of course," Shi nodded.

"So, I suppose the question to ask next is if you're here for a reason other than checking on me," Cadon said, looking up at his son, who looked at Shi as if asking if he was well enough.

"I am here to check on you." She answered and nodded to the younger Mouse. "Kelith had a question for you."

"Given what's happened," Kelith said a little nervously, "Jen thought we should contact Shanin, so you two can see each other again, at least. I agree," he said, swallowing a bit as his Father's expression darkened.

"And I thought I'd made it clear that he is no longer a part of this family," Cadon said darkly. "Unless you're also here to tell me he's left that poor excuse for a wife."

"No, he hasn't, and you did make it clear, Father," Kelith said. Shivasta could sense the pain in the younger Mouse, the response to hearing his older brother belittled. "We know full well that you haven't thought of him as kin for years. And you are getting better now," he added gratefully. "But what if you weren't?"

"Then you'd be taking over as my heir, and the decision of what to do with Shanin would be up to you and your sister," Cadon said simply. "He chose his own path, Kelith. It's not my fault if he walked away from his family in doing so."

Shivasta wanted very, very badly to take the old Mouse and shake some sense into his thick skull. It sounded so much like something she'd hear from the most traditional sorts on Garosh, the groups that hadn't been listened to even by her clan for decades.

"He chose to stand up to you and make a decision for himself," the younger Mouse muttered under his breath. "Wish I'd had the same sense some days."

The spike of emotion, along with a number of Cadon's vitals, told Shi that this would be a very, very good time to end the conversation before somebody had a stroke or joined Shanin on the list of 'disowned Odona heirs.'

"Cadon needs to rest." She interrupted them, putting a fair amount of Force behind her order to the elder Mouse. None of them could miss how displeased she was with Cadon at the moment.

"I expect not to hear about this again," Cadon told his son firmly, leaning back in his bed. "I'll speak to Han and Haskit before settling down for the rest of the day."

"I will speak to them first." Shi spoke with the full authority of a Healer to her patient. "You will rest now." She ordered him, not being at all reserved in making sure he did just that.

The extra touch of the Force was enough to put him the rest of the way under, though more because his body wasn't in a condition to resist than due to any weakness of his will.

"I'm sorry for upsetting him like that," Kelith said, shaking to ruffle his fur and get the smell of his own frustration out of it.

"I'm sorry he's so ... so inconceivable." She shook her head. "Such worthless stupidity."

"More stubborn than stupid," Kelith pointed out as they left the room and locked it. "And he got it from Grandfather, from what I remember of him. Maker strike me down if I ever get that way myself."

"I suspect your older brother is the one who got it." Shi said quietly. "You and your sister are more subtle in your rebellions."

"Please," he half-chuckled as they stepped out of the room. "Today was about the biggest 'rebellion' I've ever made. Jen's another story, but I've never had the nerve to argue with him like that before."

"I have to wonder if he'd actually disown all three of you." Shi mused. "If he wants to be in control more than having even one heir."

"I doubt he's that far gone," Kelith said, shaking his head. "It was marrying without his permission, 'polluting' the family bloodline, that got Shanin in trouble. I got lucky, he approved of Biani. We might not always get along, but I do still love her. Jen... I'm not sure she ever will take that chance, not while Father's alive at least."

"At least not while she still cares to be part of the family." She nodded. "Which is probably going to be a long time."

"You must think we're one of the galaxy's most dysfunctional families," he chuckled slightly. "So, want to talk to Han and Haskit yet, while Father's asleep again?"

"You've got nothing on Hutt, trust me." Shi grinned at him. "And yes, I'll like to meet them, and actually talk to Han a bit more."

"Well, that's some consolation," Kelith actually laughed. "Come on, Han will be the easiest one to find probably." He paused by a console and tapped away at it quickly.

"He's off terrorizing the kitchen staff again," he smiled, turning and starting down the hall. "That's pretty close to here."

"What, exactly, is Han's position?" She asked conversationally as they walked.

"The family seneschal; you might call him the real head of the household," Kelith smiled. "He keeps the servants in line, makes sure everything's taken care of... practically raised us while Father was on Coruscant."

Shi nodded, familiar with the term, though she hadn't actually met one before. "How long has he worked for the family?"

"Since before I was born," Kelith said easily. "Think he started working for us not long after Father took over the family."

"Which makes him an unlikely killer," Shi nodded. "It's been going on a long time, but not nearly that long."

"And I can't imagine anything happening that would make him do it," Kelith agreed. "I mean... when was the last time you heard of a Cerean poisoning somebody without a damned good reason?"

"Never. And their 'damned good reason' is rarely as petty as it is for most people." She nodded easily. It was true too. A Cerean dual brain made it very difficult to talk them into doing anything that wasn't the best choice in at least most respects. It was one of the things that made them excellent Jedi when they were sensitive.

"Don't honestly know what we'd do if it was him," Kelith mused quietly. "Still, it probably isn't, so I'm not going to worry about that too much. They've always been friends, and Han's the only person Father will actually let argue him out of something."

"Now that is impressive." She smiled slightly.

"Yeah," Kelith smiled. "Apparently the first time they argued was over whether or not Father should hire a particular servant. The one he hired instead of Han's candidate turned out to be a kleptomaniac," the white-furred Mouse chuckled. "He learned his lesson after that."

"Oh my." Shi grinned, holding back a giggle. "That's quite a way to learn."

"You think that's a way to learn, imagine the 'I told you so' discussion after they retrieved a missing code cylinder with all the access codes to the house and Father's accounts on it," Kelith smirked as her eyes widened slightly.

"That's quite a kleptomaniac."

"Fortunately, he didn't really care what he grabbed, it was just small and easy to take," Kelith said easily as they approached the kitchen. To judge by the sound of it, it did sound like Han was busy lecturing the servants there about something.

"Sound like we're interrupting anything important?" Shi asked as she tried to make out what was happening.

"No," the Mouse said easily. "He's just complaining about the quality of some ingredients that were brought in. They're probably fine, he just aims for perfect."

"That is a concept I am familiar with." Shi said easily and put a little more serious face on as they entered to see the Cerean doing exactly as Kelith had predicted. The lean Fox who was his 'victim' for the morning was nodding quickly and taking down notes about exactly what to get to replace the things that hadn't passed muster, hurrying off as Han finished with him.

"Is Master Cadon awake now?" He asked Shi as he turned to face her.

"He is resting." She informed him simply, her senses fully open and focused on him. "I wish to speak with you in private."

"Very well," he nodded. "And Master Kelith, please try to impress upon the servants that we can't settle for substandard supplies here? We do have an image to keep up."

"I'll try, Han," the younger Mouse smiled. "Though you seem to do a much better job of it than I will."

"Hmph," the Cerean grunted, though Shi could sense the warm glow the praise gave one of his minds. "If you'll follow me, Lady Jedi, I have a private office near here we can speak in," he said, turning to walk off, his every move gracefully efficient as she followed him with the poise than came naturally to her now.

He closed the door to his office behind her, offering her a seat and taking one of his own.

"So, I understand you're talking to the family about Master Cadon's illness?" Han asked, his minds slightly guarded.

"Yes. Someone has been giving him something that greatly hinders his healing." She informed him, pressing her telepathy skills as much as was acceptable. "It is most likely to be someone in this household."

"I can't say I'm surprised," Han observed. His mind was hard to read, though if she focused enough she could separate the simultaneous thoughts out into a coherent pair of thought-streams. He was evaluating multiple angles of everything he said, constantly; one mind would be supporting it, the other disagreeing, the two trying to come to a consensus. "It's rare on Chandrila, but Master Cadon has made his share of enemies over the years, and most people in the household have either motive, opportunity, or both, to look at them."

"Which leaves capability for those who have both." Shi said quietly. "It is a short list, and getting shorter. It dates back to when he was still a Senator. Regular, small amounts over at least a year."

"Are you sure it dates back that far?" He asked her. "From what you're saying, I assume you're implying poison, rather than simply something that's inhibiting his immune system. If he has been poisoned steadily since then, the attack that struck him shortly before his resignation would likely not have improved after he returned to Chandrila."

"Do to the short length of his fur, I can not be sure how long it has been going on, only that it began before his last coat came in." She said simply. "Very small doses. The noticed attack on Coruscant is an anomaly in the pattern. A large dose, not a small one."

"Which would imply it was meant to kill him quickly; his survival since then implies that the poisoner's goal was accomplished when he left," Han decided. "I hope you'll forgive me, but I feel obligated to help when one of my employers is being attacked. I assume that I'm still on the suspect list?" He looked at her with interest in his eyes, though his minds seemed curious, little more.

"Yes," she inclined her head slightly. "Not high on it, but I have nothing that indicates you could not have, other than it is unlikely."

"For what it is worth, I did not," he told her. "I have no particular motive; Cadon and I have typically either agreed or come to agreements on all subjects. Moreover, even if I did have a reason to want Master Cadon dead, I would be far more likely to run him through with a shyarn than to poison him, and would wait to do so until Master Kelith was actually prepared to take over running the family business permanently. I would not leave the children in a poor position to care for themselves."

That much both brains agreed on completely. Shi had a feeling, sad as it was, that the Cerean likely cared more for Kelith and Jen than their biological father did.

"I believe you." She said quietly. "Is there anyone in the house you think may be capable and has motive and opportunity?"

"That I am aware of, Haskit and Lady Biani are the most likely candidates," he said easily. "There are some of the servants who have opportunity and may have been hired by another, but they would have no opportunity that would not have been noticed by another, and my network among them is more extensive than Lady Biani's has a hope of being. If one of them was doing this, I would have heard of it by now."

"What reason does Haskit have?" Shi asked, her interest peaked as the name came up yet again of the one person she hadn't spoken to yet.

"Several," Han explained. "First and foremost, she has already made several business decisions that Master Cadon would not approve of. It is not my position to tell him of them, but I know that when he discovers that she acted against his wishes she will be dismissed from her position. This is more of an issue considering that several of these decisions turned out poorly.

"Second, even if she manages to cover her previous actions, Master Cadon has been keeping tighter reins on the family business. One of the children would be more easily controlled than he is, Jen in particular. If Master Cadon were to die, I would be concerned for Kelith's life next."

"She has regular access to Master Cadon as well." Shi nodded thoughtfully. It confirmed what she already suspected to a point. It was hardly proof, however. "Master Cadon will not die, however. Not while I am here."

"For which all of us but one are grateful," the Cerean said, his lips quirking into a brief smile. "Hopefully that one will be found out before you leave."

"It would be irresponsible of me not to find the cause of his condition," Shi smiled faintly back.

"Quite true. Though I should warn you; once you find out, you'll have to act fast. If the person behind this finds out you're onto them, they will likely flee before you can do anything."

"I understand," Shi nodded. "It frequently is the case."

"I should leave you to finish your rounds then. If you need any help, or a place to meditate, let me know. I have a kasha crystal in my quarters you may find soothing."

"Thank you," she stood and bowed to him. "It has been most informative."

"Glad to be of assistance. I would still like to know when Master Cadon is ready to speak with me."

"I will let you know." Shi told him easily.

"Force be with you, Lady Jedi," Han said, standing and bowing slightly as she left. Only one left to find; Haskit.

"If you're ready, we're in luck," Kelith told her as he looked at a datapad. "Haskit just got back from a meeting, so she'll have time. I told her we'd be coming soon."

"Good. She is the top suspect according to everyone, to be honest. If she can be kept here, it would be good."

"Without anybody telling her she's a suspect? Only a major storm does that," Kelith said, shaking his head. "Something that'd ground her speeder."

"That can be arranged." Shi said simply.

"I don't think I want to know," he murmured. "You want to talk to her first yet?"

"The storm is gathering; unless she bolts directly from our conversation, it will be difficult for her to leave."

"Very well," he nodded, making a mental note not to call for the weather control satellites to stop the incoming weather.

It wasn't long before Shivasta heard orders being dictated, either to a servant or a droid. The business shorthand flew right over her head, a flurry of acronyms and project names that made talking to Jay about a project sound simple.

Judging by the fact that most of the words she could understand were in bothese, she was sure they were approaching Haskit's room.

When they entered, the brown-and-white furred humanoid raised a hand to signal for a few moments more as she finished her string of orders, reading through a datapad and making decisions based on the information there in a matter of seconds.

"Send report, and shut down," she told the droid as she turned off the datapad and turned to face Kelith and Shivasta.

"Thank you for your patience," she smiled easily, her large ears twitching slightly as she realized that she was facing a Jedi, even if it was a young one. "I'm afraid our business concerns rarely stop just because I'm not in the office."

Shi felt the woman's shields double a fraction of a moment after she was recognized. The surface was all business and a desire to get back to it, under it was something else, but nothing incriminating yet.

"I just need to ask you a few questions, Haskit." Shi said easily. "How long have you worked for Master Cadon?"

"Since before his wife died," the Bothan answered easily. "I've been with the company for close to a decade now. Why?"

"I'm trying to put together a timeline, find out if anything like this has happened before and if you have enough contact with him that your health may be of concern." Shi explained easily. "I am fairly sure it is not contagious, but those who have frequent contact may still be at risk until I figure out what has made him so ill."

"I should be fairly safe then," Haskit chuckled. "My contact with him has been fairly spotty up until recently. I work for him, but we're not the best of friends."

"Do you know of any major arguments, or other stressors that happened about the same time as his illness?" Shi continued.

"Major arguments, no," she said easily. "I've had some disputes with him about business lately, but I don't know that they'd be all that stressful. The usual disputes. He did have an attack like this not long after his wife died; he might simply be reaching the point where age is taking its toll."

"What was that one like?" Shi was suddenly very interested. "Relative to this one, in particular."

"Much more acute, but if it was stress triggered that would make sense," Haskit said, thinking it over. "He was on Coruscant at the time; it was the attack that made him resign. I was here, of course," she shrugged. "I just know that was why he came back."

"I'll look into that then." Shi nodded. "Is there anything you can think of that might be related? Even little things can matter in cases like this. I'd hate to heal him only to have him get sick again because the cause is still there."

"Some of his pet projects were turning out to be bad investments," Haskit explained, her tone conversational, her emotions steady. "We all make mistakes, but with somebody with the major type-A personality he has... well, you can imagine how well he was probably taking the news."

"Yes, I can." Shi nodded easily. She'd already met enough of it to believe the statement if she didn't have a suspicion it was a lie, or at least twisting of the truth.

"I wouldn't think it was the same as his wife's death of course, but it is a source of stress that might be trouble. Weaken the immune system; let all manner of things get through. Too many businesspeople who work themselves to death these days, don't you agree?"

"I can't say I've come across enough of them to know, but every high stress job does have that tendency." Shi nodded, all Healer. "How are you handling it?"

"Frequent relaxation," the Bothan chuckled. "Nothing that interferes with my work, but I make sure I take ample time to myself."

"Good," Shi smiled at her. "You seem to be in the second highest stress job here, after Master Cadon."

"And I have advised that he follow my lead, but I'm afraid he's just too hands-on to do so," Haskit shrugged slightly. "I can't say I'm surprised he's sick."

It was distinctly frustrating that her emotions seemed to back up everything she was saying. To judge strictly by empathy, she wasn't any more likely to try killing Cadon like this than Biani was.

It added up to one thing: someone in this house was an exceptional liar.

What she had was nothing she could take to a court, but she knew where her money was on this one.

"So how is the business doing, other than those bad investments you mentioned?" Shi asked conversationally.

"Fairly well," Haskit said. "Of course, I'll be the first to admit that not everything I've done with it has turned out golden either, but I wouldn't have been with the company as long as I have without running it fairly well, would I?"

"Not with any smart company at least." Shi smiled. Haskit was definitely asking if she agreed far too much. Again, nothing close to proof, but it fed her suspicions. Especially with what Han had said about her being dismissed when her choices were discovered. If that turned out to be true, it would definitely be more than suspicious. "Can you think of anything that might be important?"

"Mmm... no, not that I can think of," Haskit said, shaking her head. "I wish I could be more helpful."

"You have been helpful," Shi said easily and stood. "I will let you return to your work now."

"Thank you," the Bothan nodded, bowing her head slightly. "Good luck, Lady Jedi."

"Thank you." Shi nodded and left, Kelith just behind her.

"She puts my fur on end some days," Kelith muttered as they walked away. "I should probably let you get back to work; I have business to take care of."

"I understand," Shi nodded before they parted. "Thank you for introducing me around."

"You're welcome; I just hope you figure this out," he smiled before disappearing down a hall, leaving her to return to Cadon's locked room and figure this all out as thunder rolled through the sky around the Estate.

Go to Part 1         Part 2         Part 3        

A Heritage of Power 3: Jay's Story 5: Trials and Pain part 1 of 3

NC-17 for M/F, M/M and M/Herm
Het Level is MediumHet Smut Level is Medium
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Medium
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is LowHerm Smut Level is Very Low

208 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written April 24, 2005 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: Star Wars (Furry)

Primary Races: Bear, Cheetah, Ice Walker, Kat, Kushiban, Panther

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). Bestiality (Off-screen), Rape (H on M), Rape Recovery, Relationship (Established)

Pairings: Doruth Parn/Tes Ramaris, Jay Clawson/Shivasta Stormwarden/Fenrik Aren, Various others

Blurb: Adolescence left well behind for the triad, bonds of loyalty strengthen even as they spend more time apart. As Jay masters his new Force-skills and begun to work with Shi on projects that even the Council is interested in, both Padawans near the end of their formal training and their Trials. Some go well, some less so, but all go roughly as expected.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

Page Hit Count from April 24, 2005    1780